ISEE Upper Level Reading : Analyzing Cause and Effect in History Passages

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

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In History Passages

Adapted from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1784)

At the time I established myself in Pennsylvania there was not a good bookseller's shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York and Philadelphia the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books. Those who loved reading were obliged to send for their books from England; the members of the Junto had each a few. We had left the ale-house, where we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in. I proposed that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences, but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wished to read at home. This was accordingly done, and for some time contented us.

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I proposed to render the benefit from books more common by commencing a public subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a skilful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of agreement, to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engaged to pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry to find more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund we began. The books were imported; the library was opened one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books, and in a few years were observed by strangers to be better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other countries.

The main purpose of this passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

to explain why Franklin established a library

to show how one might go about establishing a library

to show why reading books is so important to an informed citizenry

to explain why American colonists were so much better informed than the rest of the world

Correct answer:

to explain why Franklin established a library

Explanation:

The primary purpose of the passage is simply to explain Franklin's reasons for establishing a library in Philadelphia.

Example Question #831 : Ssat Upper Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from "Federalist No. 46. The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared" by James Madison in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

Many considerations, besides those suggested on a former occasion, seem to place it beyond doubt that the first and most natural attachment of the people will be to the governments of their respective states. Into the administration of these a greater number of individuals will expect to rise. From the gift of these a greater number of offices and emoluments will flow. By the superintending care of these, all the more domestic and personal interests of the people will be regulated and provided for. With the affairs of these, the people will be more familiarly and minutely conversant. And with the members of these, will a greater proportion of the people have the ties of personal acquaintance and friendship, and of family and party attachments; on the side of these, therefore, the popular bias may well be expected most strongly to incline.

Experience speaks the same language in this case. The federal administration, though hitherto very defective in comparison with what may be hoped under a better system, had, during the war, and particularly whilst the independent fund of paper emissions was in credit, an activity and importance as great as it can well have in any future circumstances whatever. It was engaged, too, in a course of measures which had for their object the protection of everything that was dear and the acquisition of everything that could be desirable to the people at large. It was, nevertheless, invariably found, after the transient enthusiasm for the early Congresses was over, that the attention and attachment of the people were turned anew to their own particular governments; that the federal council was at no time the idol of popular favor; and that opposition to proposed enlargements of its powers and importance was the side usually taken by the men who wished to build their political consequence on the prepossessions of their fellow-citizens.

Which of the following is NOT a result the author mentions as likely to arise from people being more attached to their state governments than to their federal government?

Possible Answers:

Citizens will be more aware of the actions of their state governments.

State taxes will increase in order to pay for expanding state governments.

More individuals will work for state governments.

More state governmental offices will be created.

More people will have friends and relatives who work in the state governments.

Correct answer:

State taxes will increase in order to pay for expanding state governments.

Explanation:

While it is logical that state taxes may very well rise if all of the other effects of citizens' preference for state government take place, the author never mentions taxes in the paragraph. All of the other answer choices are mentioned in the first paragraph of the passage as potential effects caused by the relative popularity of state governments.

Example Question #832 : Ssat Upper Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from "Federalist No. 46. The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared" by James Madison in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

Many considerations, besides those suggested on a former occasion, seem to place it beyond doubt that the first and most natural attachment of the people will be to the governments of their respective states. Into the administration of these a greater number of individuals will expect to rise. From the gift of these a greater number of offices and emoluments will flow. By the superintending care of these, all the more domestic and personal interests of the people will be regulated and provided for. With the affairs of these, the people will be more familiarly and minutely conversant. And with the members of these, will a greater proportion of the people have the ties of personal acquaintance and friendship, and of family and party attachments; on the side of these, therefore, the popular bias may well be expected most strongly to incline.

Experience speaks the same language in this case. The federal administration, though hitherto very defective in comparison with what may be hoped under a better system, had, during the war, and particularly whilst the independent fund of paper emissions was in credit, an activity and importance as great as it can well have in any future circumstances whatever. It was engaged, too, in a course of measures which had for their object the protection of everything that was dear and the acquisition of everything that could be desirable to the people at large. It was, nevertheless, invariably found, after the transient enthusiasm for the early Congresses was over, that the attention and attachment of the people were turned anew to their own particular governments; that the federal council was at no time the idol of popular favor; and that opposition to proposed enlargements of its powers and importance was the side usually taken by the men who wished to build their political consequence on the prepossessions of their fellow-citizens.

Which of the following events occurred after the war?

Possible Answers:

More state governmental offices were created.

More people were related to or friends with federal government officials.

The independent fund of paper emissions was in credit.

The domestic interests of citizens were provided for.

The people turned their attention from the federal government to their specific state governments.

Correct answer:

The people turned their attention from the federal government to their specific state governments.

Explanation:

Answering this question correctly requires you to read very carefully in order to figure out the exact chronology of events described by the author in the passage. "More state governmental offices were created" and " "The domestic interests of citizens were provided for" cannot be correct because they are both hypothetical, potential effects of state government popularity presented by the author in his theoretical argument in the first paragraph. "The independent fund of paper emissions was in credit" cannot be correct because according to the author, this occurred during the war, not after it. Finally, "More people were related to or friends with federal government officials" cannot be correct because the author suggests that more people will be related to or friends with state government officials as a theoretical possibility in the first paragraph. The only remaining answer is the correct one: "The people turned their attention from the federal government to their specific state governments." This is supported by the sentence "It was, nevertheless, invariably found, after the transient enthusiasm for the early Congresses was over, that the attention and attachment of the people were turned anew to their own particular governments," found in the second paragraph.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In History Passages

"The Holy Roman Empire" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

The Holy Roman Empire was somewhat unique among the various organized states of Middle and Early Modern Europe in that the Emperor was chosen by a group of electors. This is in stark contrast to the strict hereditary nature of English or French succession, where the position of monarch was handed down from the outgoing ruler to his closest legitimate heir, usually a son. In the Holy Roman Empire, the Emperor was chosen by seven electors, which in theory might seem to give the Empire a sort of early democratic flavor. However, in practice, only two or three families were ever able to draw on sufficient personal wealth to stand for election. Of these, the Luxembourgs and the Hapsburgs are most well known. The Hapsburgs were so successful that they were able to maintain their “elected” position for almost four centuries, and the Luxembourgs somehow still have a small country named after their family almost seven hundred years after their fall from dominance.

Why were the Hapsburg and Luxembourg families able to stand for election?

Possible Answers:

They were beloved by the people

They had sufficient personal wealth to afford it

They had the historical legitimacy necessary to be elected

They were deemed highly virtuous and religious families

They were renowned throughout Europe

Correct answer:

They had sufficient personal wealth to afford it

Explanation:

This question is asking you to identify a relevant detail from the text. When you are asked to do this, it is important to read carefully to determine which of the answers is most directly supported in the text. The author says, "only two or three families were ever able to draw on sufficient personal wealth to stand for election. Of these the Luxembourgs and the Hapsburgs are most well known.” So, the correct answer is that the Hapsburgs and Luxembourgs were able to stand for election because they were wealthy enough to afford the costs involved.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In History Passages

Adapted from "Crossing the Rubicon" in History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott (1902)

There was a little stream in ancient times, in the north of Italy, which flowed eastward into the Adriatic Sea, called the Rubicon. This stream has been immortalized by the transactions which we are now about to describe.

The Rubicon was a very important boundary, and yet it was in itself so small and insignificant that it is now impossible to determine which of two or three little brooks here running into the sea is entitled to its name and renown. In history the Rubicon is a grand, permanent, and conspicuous stream, gazed upon with continued interest by all mankind for nearly twenty centuries; in nature it is an uncertain rivulet, for a long time doubtful and undetermined, and finally lost.

The Rubicon originally derived its importance from the fact that it was the boundary between all that part of the north of Italy which is formed by the valley of the Po, one of the richest and most magnificent countries of the world, and the more southern Roman territories. This country of the Po constituted what was in those days called the hither Gaul, and was a Roman province. It belonged now to Cæsar's jurisdiction, as the commander in Gaul. All south of the Rubicon was territory reserved for the immediate jurisdiction of the city. The Romans, in order to protect themselves from any danger which might threaten their own liberties from the immense armies which they raised for the conquest of foreign nations, had imposed on every side very strict limitations and restrictions in respect to the approach of these armies to the capital. The Rubicon was the limit on this northern side. Generals commanding in Gaul were never to pass it. To cross the Rubicon with an army on the way to Rome was rebellion and treason. Hence the Rubicon became, as it were, the visible sign and symbol of civil restriction to military power.

Why does the author discuss the geographical nature of the Rubicon at the beginning of the second paragraph? 

Possible Answers:

To illustrate how close the river was to the city of Rome

To discuss the logistical problems faced by Caesar’s army

To demonstrate how simple it would have been for Caesar to cross the river

To contrast the smallness of its actual size with the massive effect it has had on history

To defend against allegations that Caesar was an abhorrent tyrant

Correct answer:

To contrast the smallness of its actual size with the massive effect it has had on history

Explanation:

The author discusses the geographic smallness of the river to contrast the river's size with its historical significance. Immediately after remarking on the smallness of the river, the author states, “In history the Rubicon is a grand, permanent, and conspicuous stream, gazed upon with continued interest by all mankind for nearly twenty centuries; in nature it is an uncertain rivulet, for a long time doubtful and undetermined, and finally lost.” To provide further help, “conspicuous” means striking or easily noticed, and “rivulet” means small river.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In History Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

Martin Luther was born the 10th of November, 1483, at Eisleben, in Saxony. His father was a miner, of Mansfield, and his ancestors were peasants, who lived near the summit of the Thuringian Forest. His early years were spent at Mansfield, in extreme poverty, and he earned his bread by singing hymns before the houses of the village. At the age of fifteen, he went to Eisenach, to a high school, and at eighteen entered the university of Erfurt, where he made considerable progress in the sciences then usually taught, which, however, were confined chiefly to the scholastic philosophy. In 1505, he took his degree of bachelor of arts, and, shortly after, his religious struggles commenced. He had witnessed a fearful tempest, which alarmed him, and he was also much depressed by the death of an intimate friend. In that age, the serious and the melancholy generally sought monastic retreats, and Luther resolved to forsake the world and become a monk. He entered an Augustinian monastery at Erfurt soon after obtaining his first degree. But the duties and studies of monastic life did not give his troubled soul the repose he sought. He submitted to all the irksome labors which the monks imposed, but still he was troubled with religious fears. His brethren encouraged his good works, but his perplexities and doubts remained.

In this state of mind, he was found by Staupitz, vicar-general of the order, who was visiting Erfurt in his tour of inspection with a view to correct the bad morals of the monasteries. He sympathized with Luther in his religious feelings, treated him with great kindness, and recommended the reading of the scriptures, and also the works of St. Augustine, whose theological views he himself had embraced. Although St. Augustine was a great oracle in the Roman church, his doctrines pertaining to personal salvation differed in spirit from those which were encouraged by the Roman Catholic divines generally. In that age of abuses, great importance was attached, by the church, to austerities, penance, and absolutions for money. But Luther at length found light, repose, and joy in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This became more and more the idea of his life, especially at this time. The firmness of his devotion to this point became extraordinary, and his spiritual gladness now equalled his former depression and anxiety. He was soon to find a sphere for the development of his views.

The author suggests that Martin Luther joined the monastery because he was feeling __________.

Possible Answers:

religious devotion

an intense nostalgia

lost and alone

religious confusion

a pensive sadness

Correct answer:

a pensive sadness

Explanation:

This question could reasonably be answered based on an understanding of the word “melancholy,” which means a feeling of thoughtful sadness. However, it can also be understood by carefully reading the whole of the portion of the text that discusses Martin Luther becoming a monk of the passage. The author says, “In that age, the serious and the melancholy generally sought monastic retreats, and Luther resolved to forsake the world and become a monk." Luther is “serious and melancholy”; this may best be understood as “a pensive sadness."

Example Question #3 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In History Passages

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves, by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.

He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.

He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men—both natives and foreigners.

Which of the following best paraphrases the underlined sentence in the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

It is difficult to change governments, especially ones that have been around for a long time.

It is best to be careful and not make anyone angry when requesting that changes be made to governmental structures.

The authors feel that no one will take their work seriously unless they convey their anger.

Men often ignore what women have to say, especially what they have to say about politics.

Much has been written about this topic in lighthearted tones, so the authors want to differentiate their work by using a different tone.

Correct answer:

It is difficult to change governments, especially ones that have been around for a long time.

Explanation:

The following sentence is underlined in the passage:

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves, by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. "

The writers here explain that governments are difficult to change—particularly "long established" ones.

Passage adapted from “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and others (1848)

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

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