ISEE Upper Level Reading : Determining Context-Dependent Word Meanings in History Passages

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

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

← Previous 1 3 4

Example Question #1 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings 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.

In the first line of the second paragraph, "finding" most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

locating

discovering

decreeing

concluding

Correct answer:

discovering

Explanation:

Franklin's use of the word "finding" here refers to the advantage of having books readily available, an advantage which he only discovered after establishing the library for himself and his friends in the Junto. So, the best answer choice is "discovering."

Example Question #2 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings 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.

Judging from the context of the passage, the underlined word "conveyancer" most likely means __________.

Possible Answers:

a contractor

a builder

an architect

a lawyer

Correct answer:

a lawyer

Explanation:

A "conveyancer" was a lawyer who specialized in drawing up contracts, or "articles of agreement" such as the one Franklin creates for the subscribers to the library.

Example Question #3 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History Passages

Adapted from Emancipation of the Working Class by Eugene Debs (1918)

You remember that, at the close of Theodore Roosevelt's second term as President, he went over to Africa to make war on some of his ancestors. You remember that, at the close of his expedition, he visited the capitals of Europe, and that he was wined and dined, dignified and glorified by all the Kaisers and Czars and Emperors of the Old World. He visited Potsdam while the Kaiser was there, and, according to the accounts published in the American newspapers, he and the Kaiser were soon on the most familiar terms. They were hilariously intimate with each other, and slapped each other on the back. After Roosevelt had reviewed the Kaiser's troops, according to the same accounts, he became enthusiastic over the Kaiser's legions and said: "If I had that kind of an army, I could conquer the world." He knew the Kaiser then just as well as he knows him now. He knew that he was the Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin. And yet, he permitted himself to be entertained by that Beast of Berlin; had his feet under the mahogany of the Beast of Berlin; was cheek by jowl with the Beast of Berlin. And, while Roosevelt was being entertained royally by the German Kaiser, that same Kaiser was putting the leaders of the Socialist Party in jail for fighting the Kaiser and the Junkers of Germany. Roosevelt was the guest of honor in the White House of the Kaiser, while the Socialists were in the jails of the Kaiser for fighting the Kaiser. Who then was fighting for democracy? Roosevelt? Roosevelt, who was honored by the Kaiser, or the Socialists who were in jail by order of the Kaiser?  "Birds of a feather flock together."

When the newspapers reported that Kaiser Wilhelm and ex-President Theodore Roosevelt recognized each other at sight, were perfectly intimate with each other at the first touch, they made the admission that is fatal to the claim of Theodore Roosevelt, that he is the friend of the common people and the champion of democracy; they admitted that they were kith and kin; that they were very much alike; that their ideas and ideals were about the same. If Theodore Roosevelt is the great champion of democracy—the arch foe of autocracy—what business had he as the guest of honor of the Prussian Kaiser? And when he met the Kaiser, and did honor to the Kaiser, under the terms imputed to him, wasn't it pretty strong proof that he himself was a Kaiser at heart? Now, after being the guest of Emperor Wilhelm, the Beast of Berlin, he comes back to this country, and wants you to send ten million men over there to kill the Kaiser, to murder his former friend and pal. Rather queer, isn't it? And yet, he is the patriot, and we are the traitors. I challenge you to find a Socialist anywhere on the face of the earth who was ever the guest of the Beast of Berlin, except as an inmate of his prison.

The word “close,” as used by the author in the second sentence, most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

lock 

shut 

secure 

end 

seal 

Correct answer:

end 

Explanation:

The word “close” generally means to shut or seal something. In this instance, however, the author uses it to mean end. The author describes how “at the close of his expedition [in Africa]” Theodore Roosevelt went to meet the rulers of Europe. Seeing as how his expedition in Africa would have to end in order for Roosevelt to be in Europe you know that the answer must be “end.”

Example Question #4 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History Passages

Adapted from "Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft" by George Eliot (1855)

There is a notion commonly entertained among men that an instructed woman, capable of having opinions, is likely to prove an unpractical yoke-fellow, always pulling one way when her husband wants to go the other, oracular in tone, and prone to give lectures. But surely, so far as obstinacy is concerned, your unreasoning animal is the most difficult of your creatures. For our own parts, we see no reason why women should be better kept under control rather than educated to be mans rational equal.  

If you ask me what offices women may fill, I reply—any. I do not care what case you put; let them be sea-captains, if you will. I do not doubt there are women well fitted for such an office, and, if so, I should be glad to welcome the Maid of Saragossa. I think women need, especially at this juncture, a much greater range of occupation than they have, to rouse their latent powers. In families that I know, some little girls like to saw wood, and others to use carpenters' tools. Where these tastes are indulged, cheerfulness and good-humor are promoted. Where they are forbidden, because "such things are not proper for girls," they grow sullen and mischievous.

Men pay a heavy price for their reluctance to encourage self-help and independent resources in women. The precious meridian years of many a man of genius have to be spent in the toil of routine, that an "establishment" may be kept up for a woman who can understand none of his secret yearnings, who is fit for nothing but to sit in her drawing-room like a doll-Madonna in her shrine. No matter. Anything is more endurable than to change our established formulae about women, or to run the risk of looking up to our wives instead of looking down on them. So men say of women, let them be idols, useless absorbents of previous things, provided we are not obliged to admit them to be strictly fellow-beings, to be treated, one and all, with justice and sober reverence.

When the author discusses women’s “latent powers,” she most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

the ability to resist patriarchal humiliation with pride and dignity

the capabilities women have to overcome male dominance

the present but unexpressed faculties of women

that male subservience to women is the natural and inevitable result of female empowerment

that women can never achieve true equality

Correct answer:

the present but unexpressed faculties of women

Explanation:

The easiest way to answer this question is to know the meaning of the word latent, which is hidden. This should help you identify that the correct answer is “the present but unexpressed faculty of women.” For clarification in this instance faculty means capabilities. If you did not know the meaning of latent it is necessary to read-in-context and then make an assumption based on what you know of the author’s overall intention throughout the passage. The sentence in which “latent powers” is contained reveals that the author believes those “powers” need to be “roused.” To rouse means to elevate. This should provide a clue as to the meaning behind “latent powers.” The other four answer choices can generally be eliminated on the grounds that they represent the opposite arguments to the primary point made by the author.

Example Question #5 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History Passages

Adapted from A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft; Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1843) by Margaret Fuller; Mary Wollstonecraft and Margaret Fuller by George Elliot (1855)

There is a notion commonly entertained among men that an instructed woman, capable of having opinions, is likely to prove an unpractical yoke-fellow, always pulling one way when her husband wants to go the other, oracular in tone, and prone to give lectures. But surely, so far as obstinacy is concerned, your unreasoning animal is the most difficult of your creatures. For our own parts, we see no reason why women should be better kept under control rather than educated to be mans rational equal.  

If you ask me what offices they [women] may fill, I reply—any. I do not care what case you put; let them be sea-captains, if you will. I do not doubt there are women well fitted for such an office, and, if so, I should be glad to welcome the Maid of Saragossa. I think women need, especially at this juncture, a much greater range of occupation than they have, to rouse their latent powers. In families that I know, some little girls like to saw wood, others to use carpenters' tools. Where these tastes are indulged, cheerfulness and good-humor are promoted. Where they are forbidden, because "such things are not proper for girls," they grow sullen and mischievous.

Men pay a heavy price for their reluctance to encourage self-help and independent resources in women. The precious meridian years of many a man of genius have to be spent in the toil of routine, that an "establishment" may be kept up for a woman who can understand none of his secret yearnings, who is fit for nothing but to sit in her drawing-room like a doll-Madonna in her shrine. No matter. Anything is more endurable than to change our established formulae about women, or to run the risk of looking up to our wives instead of looking down on them. So men say of women, let them be idols, useless absorbents of previous things, provided we are not obliged to admit them to be strictly fellow-beings, to be treated, one and all, with justice and sober reverence.

The word “obstinacy” (line 3) most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

stubbornness

bravery

foolishness

derision

mystery

Correct answer:

stubbornness

Explanation:

The word obstinacy directly means stubbornness so if you know that this question is very simple; however, if you were not aware of the meaning of the word it is necessary to read-in-context to identify which of the answer choices could be plugged in and create the same meaning. The author makes reference to the fact that whatever is being described as obstinate is also unreasonable. It makes sense then to look among the answer choices for a word with similar meaning to unreasonable. Only stubbornness fits and is therefore the correct answer.

Example Question #6 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History Passages

Adapted from "Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft" by George Eliot (1855)

There is a notion commonly entertained among men that an instructed woman, capable of having opinions, is likely to prove an unpractical yoke-fellow, always pulling one way when her husband wants to go the other, oracular in tone, and prone to give lectures. But surely, so far as obstinacy is concerned, your unreasoning animal is the most difficult of your creatures. For our own parts, we see no reason why women should be better kept under control rather than educated to be mans rational equal.  

If you ask me what offices women may fill, I reply—any. I do not care what case you put; let them be sea-captains, if you will. I do not doubt there are women well fitted for such an office, and, if so, I should be glad to welcome the Maid of Saragossa. I think women need, especially at this juncture, a much greater range of occupation than they have, to rouse their latent powers. In families that I know, some little girls like to saw wood, and others to use carpenters' tools. Where these tastes are indulged, cheerfulness and good-humor are promoted. Where they are forbidden, because "such things are not proper for girls," they grow sullen and mischievous.

Men pay a heavy price for their reluctance to encourage self-help and independent resources in women. The precious meridian years of many a man of genius have to be spent in the toil of routine, that an "establishment" may be kept up for a woman who can understand none of his secret yearnings, who is fit for nothing but to sit in her drawing-room like a doll-Madonna in her shrine. No matter. Anything is more endurable than to change our established formulae about women, or to run the risk of looking up to our wives instead of looking down on them. So men say of women, let them be idols, useless absorbents of previous things, provided we are not obliged to admit them to be strictly fellow-beings, to be treated, one and all, with justice and sober reverence.

The word “entertained” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

revered

amused

considered

disturbing

diverting

Correct answer:

considered

Explanation:

The primary meaning of the word “entertain” is amuse or engage, but from the context of the sentence, you know that a secondary meaning of the word must be being used here. The sentence begins by stating that there is a common male notion of why women should not be educated. If you replace “entertained” with either "amused" or "disturbing," neither word comfortably fits. "Diverting" means distracting, and "revered" means respected; neither of these words could fit within the context. "Considered," which means gave something thought, is an easy fit and is a secondary meaning of the word “entertained.”

Example Question #2 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History Passages

Adapted from "Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft" by George Eliot (1855)

There is a notion commonly entertained among men that an instructed woman, capable of having opinions, is likely to prove an unpractical yoke-fellow, always pulling one way when her husband wants to go the other, oracular in tone, and prone to give lectures. But surely, so far as obstinacy is concerned, your unreasoning animal is the most difficult of your creatures. For our own parts, we see no reason why women should be better kept under control rather than educated to be mans rational equal.  

If you ask me what offices they [women] may fill, I reply—any. I do not care what case you put; let them be sea-captains, if you will. I do not doubt there are women well fitted for such an office, and, if so, I should be glad to welcome the Maid of Saragossa. I think women need, especially at this juncture, a much greater range of occupation than they have, to rouse their latent powers. In families that I know, some little girls like to saw wood, others to use carpenters' tools. Where these tastes are indulged, cheerfulness and good-humor are promoted. Where they are forbidden, because "such things are not proper for girls," they grow sullen and mischievous.

Men pay a heavy price for their reluctance to encourage self-help and independent resources in women. The precious meridian years of many a man of genius have to be spent in the toil of routine, that an "establishment" may be kept up for a woman who can understand none of his secret yearnings, who is fit for nothing but to sit in her drawing-room like a doll-Madonna in her shrine. No matter. Anything is more endurable than to change our established formulae about women, or to run the risk of looking up to our wives instead of looking down on them. So men say of women, let them be idols, useless absorbents of previous things, provided we are not obliged to admit them to be strictly fellow-beings, to be treated, one and all, with justice and sober reverence.

The word “occupation” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

distraction 

enumeration

activity

mollification

invasion 

Correct answer:

activity

Explanation:

Occupation could be used to mean invasion or it could be used to mean profession. In this instance the word occupation is used to mean activity. The context of the sentence will help reveal this answer. The author states that women “need a greater range” of occupation. A greater range of invasion would not make any sense. Mollification means to calm someone; distraction means to divert someone’s focus; enumeration means to list items.

Example Question #8 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History Passages

Adapted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Thomas Jefferson (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station 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 which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute 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 right, 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 these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

What is the meaning of the word “dissolve” in context?

Possible Answers:

To fulminate

To fix

To question

To end

To put into solution

Correct answer:

To end

Explanation:

In general, we use the word "dissolve" to describe the process of putting a solid into solution, as when we dissolve sugar or salt into water. This process "breaks up" the molecules (in different ways, not always completely traumatically). From this usage, we also can utilize the term to describe any process that brings something to an end. A business can be dissolved when its parts are broken up, and the relationship of the colonies to England can be dissolved. This is the sense it which the word is used in the passage.

Example Question #9 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History 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.

To which group of people does the underlined phrase "these gentlemen" refer?

Possible Answers:

"trustees of the people"

"the people"

"common constituents"

"The adversaries of the Constitution"

"mutual rivals and enemies"

Correct answer:

"The adversaries of the Constitution"

Explanation:

It's not possible to tell what is meant by "These gentlemen" based solely on a consideration of the sentence in which the phrase appears. Considering the context surrounding the phrase is necessary: "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." When we consider the sentence that precedes the one with the specified phrase in it, we can see that "These gentlemen" refers to "The adversaries of the Constitution." It's important to consider the meaning of the whole sentence, and not just pick out the last noun that could potentially be the antecedent.

Example Question #10 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History 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.

What is the meaning of the underlined word “predilection” in its context?

Possible Answers:

Election

Ignorance

Opposition

Assistance

Preference

Correct answer:

Preference

Explanation:

"Propensity" is used in the first sentence of the passage, in which the author states, "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." Now, we can tell from the structure of the sentence that "predilection" must mean something like "support"; knowing this, we can eliminate a few answer choices: "opposition," which wouldn't make sense because it's the opposite of "support," while the word we're looking for must be somewhat similar in meaning; "ignorance," which is not close in meaning to "support" and wouldn't make sense in the sentence's context; and "election," which while it sounds similar to "predilection," again doesn't make sense in context. This leaves us with "preference" and "assistance." While "assistance" is very close in meaning to "support," it wouldn't make sense for the writer to use the two exact synonyms alongside each other like in the sentence; it would be redundant, like saying "The homework assignment was simple and easy." So, by narrowing down our answer choices carefully, we can conclude that "predilection" is most similar in meaning to "preference." This is absolutely true; "predilection" means bias toward or propensity for. If I have a predilection for breakfast foods and you offer me breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I'll choose breakfast.

← Previous 1 3 4
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

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