ISEE Upper Level Reading : Analyzing Passage Logic, Genre, and Organization in History Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #6 : Understanding Style, Argument, And Organization In Social Science Passages

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)

I proceed to inquire whether the federal government or the state governments will have the advantage with regard to the predilection and support of the people. Notwithstanding the different modes in which they are appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States. I assume this position here as it respects the first, reserving the proofs for another place. The federal and state governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject, and to have viewed these different establishments not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other. Truth, no less than decency, requires that the event in every case should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and sanction of their common constituents.

Which difference between federal and state governments is the author purposely not addressing in his argument?

Possible Answers:

Their different powers and purposes

The fact that both derive their authority from constituents

Their different constituents

The different ways in which officials are elected

The different sizes of their spheres of jurisdiction

Correct answer:

The different ways in which officials are elected

Explanation:

In the paragraph's second sentence, the author states, "Notwithstanding the different modes in which [the federal and state governments] are appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States." The introductory phrase that begins this sentence with "Notwithstanding" tells us that the author is ignoring the fact that the two different forms of government are appointed in different ways, so "The different ways in which officials are elected" is the correct answer.

Example Question #1 : Locating Details In Argumentative Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln (1863)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The introduction presents __________.

Possible Answers:

an acknowledgement of the counterargument

an introductory aside

a historical context 

a scientific theory

an acknowledgement of the counterargument

speculation 

Correct answer:

a historical context 

Explanation:

The introduction puts the Civil War within the historical context of United States history. By referencing the birth of the nation the author is trying to link contemporary events with significant events in past in order that the audience might observe an unbroken chain of historical relation.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Passage Logic, Genre, And Organization In History Passages

Adapted from Women’s Political Future by Frances E. W. Harper (1893)

The world has need of all the spiritual aid that woman can give for the social advancement and moral development of the human race. The tendency of the present age, with its restlessness, religious upheavals, failures, blunders, and crimes, is toward broader freedom, an increase of knowledge, the emancipation of thought, and recognition of the brotherhood of man; in this movement woman, as the companion of man, must be an equal. So close is the bond between man and woman that you cannot raise one without lifting the other. The world cannot move without woman's sharing in the movement, and to help give a right impetus to that movement is woman's highest privilege.

If the fifteenth century discovered America to the Old World, the nineteenth is discovering woman to herself. Not the opportunity of discovering new worlds, but that of filling this old world with fairer and higher aims than the greed of gold and the lust of power, is hers. Through weary, wasting years men have destroyed, dashed in pieces, and overthrown, but today we stand on the threshold of woman's era, and woman's work is grandly constructive. In her hand are possibilities whose use or abuse must tell upon the political life of the nation, and send their influence for good or evil across the track of unborn ages.

In context, the reference to the discovery of America is meant to underline what aspect of women’s life in the nineteenth century?

Possible Answers:

The removal of obstacles to sexual equality

The growing opportunities for self-realization

The education of women in private schools

The ability of women to vote

The closeness of men and women

Correct answer:

The growing opportunities for self-realization

Explanation:

The author makes reference to the discovery of America in the fifteenth century in comparison to women’s discovery of their own identity in the nineteenth century. The author states that “the nineteenth is discovering woman to herself” and that “today we stand on the threshold of woman's era.”

Example Question #1 : Passage Wide Features In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Lucretia Mott; and others (1848)

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 affect 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 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 women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

For what purpose does the author employ the language of the first few lines of the United States Constitution?

Possible Answers:

To chastise a group or an individual

To deny the relevance of an established authority

To establish an argument that will be later refuted

To frame a new idea within the context of familiar language

To distract from the main point

Correct answer:

To frame a new idea within the context of familiar language

Explanation:

You may have noticed that the author slightly manipulates the language of the Constitution. The Constitution states that “all men are created equal” and the author alters this to say “that all men and women are created equal.” The purpose of doing this is to contextualize a new idea within the framework of existing, and familiar, language. The author clearly feels that this will make her argument more evocative and relevant.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Passage Logic, Genre, And Organization In History Passages

Adapted from "Address to the Court" by Eugene Debs (1918)

Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the form of our present government; that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believed in the change of both—but by perfectly peaceable and orderly means.

Let me call your attention to the fact this morning that in this system five percent of our people own and control two-thirds of our wealth; sixty-five percent of the people, embracing the working class who produce all wealth, have but five percent to show for it.

Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison. The choice has been deliberately made. I could not have done otherwise. I have no regret.

In the struggle, the unceasing struggle, between the toilers and producers and their exploiters, I have tried, as best I might, to serve those among whom I was born, with whom I expect to share my lot until the end of my days. I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and factories; I am thinking of the men in the mines and on the railroads; I am thinking of the women who, for a paltry wage, are compelled to work out their lives; of the little children, who in this system, are robbed of their childhood, and in their early, tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon, and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the machines while they themselves are being starved body and soul. I see them dwarfed, diseased, stunted, their little lives broken, and their hopes blasted, because in this high noon of our twentieth-century civilization money is still so much more important than human life. Gold is god and rules in the affairs of men.

The second paragraph is intended to highlight __________.

Possible Answers:

the hard working attitude of the American working class

the disparity of wealth in America

the evils of American government

the need to raise the minimum wage

the generosity of wealthy Americans

Correct answer:

the disparity of wealth in America

Explanation:

The second paragraph discusses how a small percentage of the American population owns a large proportion of the wealth; therefore, the correct answer is that the second paragraph is highlighting the disparity of wealthy in America.

Example Question #1 : Passage Reasoning

While the Gutenberg press was perhaps one of the greatest inventions of all time, we should not let its importance blind us to other very important events in the history of linguistic development. Granted, the efficiency of printing allowed for the dissemination of much learning in Europe. Still, such printing was not unique to Europe, and even in the scope of world history, there are several events that are equally as miraculous regarding the transmission of knowledge.

For instance, most people overlook the amazing nature of the first time that human beings communicated with spoken language. Perhaps there were simple signs by which these early humans could indicate their needs to each other; however, when the first event of person-to-person speech occurred, it was far more marvelous than simple practical communication. Such speech was like a sharing in ideas. When true speech happened, persons were able to communicate knowledge to each other, freeing it from its isolation in one lonely person. By means of such speech, knowledge could be orally transmitted from generation to generation, thus preserving wisdom in a way that is completely impossible without speech.

Of course, such spoken tradition is very fragile, relying on memories and stories that are passed down from generation to generation. For this reason, the invention of writing is extremely important. In contrast to the spoken word, the written word can continue to exist and be useful so long as it can be read intelligently. Likewise, much more can be recorded than ever could be remembered by someone with the best of memories. Indeed, once these records are written, copies can be sent to anyone who is able to read the language in question. Just so, it can be translated into written copies to be read by others. For these (as well as many other reasons) the invention of writing was a very significant event in history, greatly expanding the possibilities for the exchange of knowledge.

Thus, the printing press is quite important, but it is part of a larger story. Like both spoken and written communication, it allows human beings to communicate knowledge not only to each other but also across multiple generations. Often, we think of the press merely in its ability to provide a great number of books in a short period of time; however, when considered as a chapter in this longer tale, it likewise appears as the means by which humanity is able to conquer time by allowing the knowledge of today to live for multiple generations.

How does the author’s main idea become developed in a new way in the last paragraph?

Possible Answers:

He shows that, in fact, the creation of the printing press was an insignificant event.

He shows that the printing press is, in fact, one of the greatest human inventions.

He shows that the printing press is merely the last stage in the development of human expression and that it will likely be replaced by new forms of technology.

He shows a new way to understand the nature of the achievements made possible by the printing press.

He shows that the printing press is an excellent supplement to oral speech, but it can never replace it.

Correct answer:

He shows a new way to understand the nature of the achievements made possible by the printing press.

Explanation:

First, note that in the first paragraph, the author states that "While the Gutenberg press was perhaps one of the greatest inventions of all time, we should not let its importance blind us to other very important events in the history of linguistic development." The next two paragraphs help to develop that idea, showing how speech and writing are equally amazing events in the history of human communication. The final paragraph closes, however, with a new assertion: "However, when considered as a chapter in this longer tale, it likewise appears as the means by which humanity is able to conquer time by allowing the knowledge of today to live for multiple generations." This develops the author's theme, giving more information about the very nature of the printing press.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Passage Logic, Genre, And Organization 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.

From the beginning to the end of this passage, Luther primarily transitions from __________.

Possible Answers:

scientific and secular to spiritual and devoted to religion

disenfranchised and confused to stark and serious

poor and desperate to wealthy and famous

anxious and somber to passionate and committed to his convictions

nervous and frightened to confident and steadfast in his secularism

Correct answer:

anxious and somber to passionate and committed to his convictions

Explanation:

The narrative presented in this text primarily follows Luther’s transition from a serious and anxious young man, unsure of his place in the world and his religious beliefs, to a man of great passion and commitment to a certain doctrine of Christianity. This transition can be seen as completed when the author says, “The firmness of his devotion to this point became extraordinary, and his spiritual gladness now equalled his former depression and anxiety.”

Example Question #21 : Textual Relationships 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.

This excerpt is most likely a part of which of the following?

Possible Answers:

A historical document

An article in a science magazine

A novel

A poem

An advertisement

Correct answer:

A historical document

Explanation:

Since the content of this passage is nonfictional and argumentative, it seems most likely that it is part of a historical document.

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

Example Question #3 : Analyzing Passage Logic, Genre, And Organization 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.

If this passage were republished in a contemporary setting, in or on which of the following would you be most likely to find it?

Possible Answers:

An article in an academic journal about statistics

A women's fashion magazine

A book of essays about female artists

In a collection of essays focused on the relationship writers have with nature

A blog about political issues

Correct answer:

A blog about political issues

Explanation:

Since the passage is an argument for women's rights, written largely in a woman's voice, you may think that "A women's fashion magazine" or "A book of essays about female artists" is the correct answer, but this is not the case. The essay is about a political problem that women faced in the passage's era faced: they did not have the right to vote. Nothing in the passage talks about artists or fashion, but it does focus on political issues. So, the best answer choice is "A blog about political issues."

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

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