ISEE Upper Level Reading : Identifying and Analyzing Supporting Ideas in Contemporary Life Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from Seven Discourses Delivered in the Royal Academy By the President by Joshua Reynolds (1778)

All the objects which are exhibited to our view by nature, upon close examination will be found to have their blemishes and defects. The most beautiful forms have something about them like weakness, minuteness, or imperfection. But it is not every eye that perceives these blemishes. It must be an eye long used to the contemplation and comparison of these forms—and which, by a long habit of observing what any set of objects of the same kind have in common, that alone can acquire the power of discerning what each wants in particular. This long laborious comparison should be the first study of the painter who aims at the greatest style. By this means, he acquires a just idea of beautiful forms; he corrects nature by herself, her imperfect state by her more perfect. His eye being enabled to distinguish the accidental deficiencies, excrescences, and deformities of things from their general figures, he makes out an abstract idea of their forms more perfect than any one original—and what may seem a paradox, he learns to design naturally by drawing his figures unlike to any one object. This idea of the perfect state of nature, which the artist calls the ideal beauty, is the great leading principle by which works of genius are conducted. By this, Phidias acquired his fame. He wrought upon a sober principle what has so much excited the enthusiasm of the world—and by this method you, who have courage to tread the same path, may acquire equal reputation.

The author's view of nature is best summarized as __________.

Possible Answers:

it is unable to be studied by humans

it is inherently imperfect

it has a beauty that cannot be represented by human art

it cannot be improved by humanity

it is a threat to humanity

Correct answer:

it is inherently imperfect

Explanation:

The passage begins by noting that nature, "upon close examination," contains "blemishes and defects." The passage further argues that a skilled painter can study nature to improve upon its imperfections.

Example Question #1 : Drawing Conclusions

Adapted from Seven Discourses Delivered in the Royal Academy By the President by Joshua Reynolds (1778)

All the objects which are exhibited to our view by nature, upon close examination will be found to have their blemishes and defects. The most beautiful forms have something about them like weakness, minuteness, or imperfection. But it is not every eye that perceives these blemishes. It must be an eye long used to the contemplation and comparison of these forms—and which, by a long habit of observing what any set of objects of the same kind have in common, that alone can acquire the power of discerning what each wants in particular. This long laborious comparison should be the first study of the painter who aims at the greatest style. By this means, he acquires a just idea of beautiful forms; he corrects nature by herself, her imperfect state by her more perfect. His eye being enabled to distinguish the accidental deficiencies, excrescences, and deformities of things from their general figures, he makes out an abstract idea of their forms more perfect than any one original—and what may seem a paradox, he learns to design naturally by drawing his figures unlike to any one object. This idea of the perfect state of nature, which the artist calls the ideal beauty, is the great leading principle by which works of genius are conducted. By this, Phidias acquired his fame. He wrought upon a sober principle what has so much excited the enthusiasm of the world—and by this method you, who have courage to tread the same path, may acquire equal reputation.

The author believes that painters are __________.

Possible Answers:

always produce images that are superior to images from nature

unable to replicate what is found in nature

able to improve their abilities with study

born with natural gifts that cannot be improved

hopelessly out of touch with natural beauty

Correct answer:

able to improve their abilities with study

Explanation:

The author urges painters to have a "habit of observing" and to study natural images. The passage also demonstrates quite clearly that study will make painters better able to "perfect" natural forms and correct nature's "blemishes and defects."

Example Question #77 : Reading Comprehension

Adapted from Seven Discourses Delivered in the Royal Academy By the President by Joshua Reynolds (1778)

All the objects which are exhibited to our view by nature, upon close examination will be found to have their blemishes and defects. The most beautiful forms have something about them like weakness, minuteness, or imperfection. But it is not every eye that perceives these blemishes. It must be an eye long used to the contemplation and comparison of these forms—and which, by a long habit of observing what any set of objects of the same kind have in common, that alone can acquire the power of discerning what each wants in particular. This long laborious comparison should be the first study of the painter who aims at the greatest style. By this means, he acquires a just idea of beautiful forms; he corrects nature by herself, her imperfect state by her more perfect. His eye being enabled to distinguish the accidental deficiencies, excrescences, and deformities of things from their general figures, he makes out an abstract idea of their forms more perfect than any one original—and what may seem a paradox, he learns to design naturally by drawing his figures unlike to any one object. This idea of the perfect state of nature, which the artist calls the ideal beauty, is the great leading principle by which works of genius are conducted. By this, Phidias acquired his fame. He wrought upon a sober principle what has so much excited the enthusiasm of the world—and by this method you, who have courage to tread the same path, may acquire equal reputation.

The author's view of artistic ability is best described as __________.

Possible Answers:

useless to humanity

equal in all who possess it

unable to replicate objects in nature

only worthwhile for the the naturally gifted to study

able to be improved through study

Correct answer:

able to be improved through study

Explanation:

The entire passage is essentially a piece of advice to artists, regarding the study of objects in nature. Above all, the passage is predicated on the notion that artistic ability can and should be improved through careful study.

Example Question #14 : Main Ideas In Humanities Passages

Adapted from Seven Discourses Delivered in the Royal Academy By the President by Joshua Reynolds (1778)

All the objects which are exhibited to our view by nature, upon close examination will be found to have their blemishes and defects. The most beautiful forms have something about them like weakness, minuteness, or imperfection. But it is not every eye that perceives these blemishes. It must be an eye long used to the contemplation and comparison of these forms—and which, by a long habit of observing what any set of objects of the same kind have in common, that alone can acquire the power of discerning what each wants in particular. This long laborious comparison should be the first study of the painter who aims at the greatest style. By this means, he acquires a just idea of beautiful forms; he corrects nature by herself, her imperfect state by her more perfect. His eye being enabled to distinguish the accidental deficiencies, excrescences, and deformities of things from their general figures, he makes out an abstract idea of their forms more perfect than any one original—and what may seem a paradox, he learns to design naturally by drawing his figures unlike to any one object. This idea of the perfect state of nature, which the artist calls the ideal beauty, is the great leading principle by which works of genius are conducted. By this, Phidias acquired his fame. He wrought upon a sober principle what has so much excited the enthusiasm of the world—and by this method you, who have courage to tread the same path, may acquire equal reputation.

The author does NOT view imperfections in nature as __________.

Possible Answers:

pervasive

abhorrent

confounding

minuscule

normal

Correct answer:

abhorrent

Explanation:

The author notes that "all the objects" in nature have "blemishes and defects." The author also notes that the "most beautiful forms" have a "weakness, minuteness, or imperfection." The only answer choice that makes sense with the passage is "abhorrent," meaning distasteful or offensive.

Example Question #3 : Passage Reasoning In Social Science Passages

"Conservatism" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

In American politics, there is perhaps no word that is more over-simplified than “conservative.” Many people use this term as though it has a single meaning and expresses a single historical-political outlook. Nothing could be further from the truth. The development of American conservatism must be understood as a combination of a number of strands of ideology that often coexist with great tension and difficulty. Although there are many groups that are combined in this larger assortment, two examples will suffice to show the great diversity present in this seemingly simple group.

For instance, there are the “traditionalist conservatives,” who generally are concerned with preserving Western culture and tradition against the developments of modern thought and culture. In many ways, this type of conservatism is the most “conserving”; that is, traditionalists are primarily concerned with maintaining the “old order” of Western civilization and learning. Because of these concerns, the traditionalist conservatives are very wary of any kind of major governmental program that promises to bring a “new order” into existence. While not disagreeing with the idea of progress, these conservatives believe that any such changes should occur organically, in a natural manner over a period of years. 

On the other hand, there are also the “libertarians," who are often classed as “conservatives” as well. They are surprisingly different from the traditionalist conservatives. The libertarians are primarily concerned with maximizing freedom and limiting the role of government in individual lives. In many ways, they represent the kind of modern individualism disagreed with by the traditionalists.

These two opposed groups are able to come together in the general notion of “conservatism” because of their shared attitudes toward the government, particularly the federal government. The traditionalists wish to limit the role of the federal government out of a fear that it will ruin traditional culture through radically new plans and agendas. The libertarians seek to limit it out of a desire to give individual citizens maximum freedom of choice and action. While these two branches of “conservatism” are in many ways opposed to each other, they somehow manage to coexist along with many other positions that are all called “conservative” in spite of similarly striking differences.

Based on what the author has said, why might it be fair to say that traditionalist conservatives most closely deserve the title “conservative” in the strict sense of that word?

Possible Answers:

Because they have questioned the limitations of modernity

Because they ultimately have a sense for the importance of other kinds of conservation, like environmental conservation

Because they are concerned with preserving the "old order" of things

Because they have long celebrated the great poets of Western civilization

Because they have always opposed the libertarians

Correct answer:

Because they are concerned with preserving the "old order" of things

Explanation:

Although the author does state that the traditionalist conservatives question modernity, the key passage for this question is, "In many ways, this type of conservatism is the most 'conserving'; that is, traditionalists are primarily concerned with maintaining the 'old order' of Western civilization and learning." This sentence states that the traditionalist conservatives are primarily concerned with maintaining the "old order" of Western civilization—the "old order" of things. Because they wish to do this, it can fairly be said that they work to "conserve" something—as is implied by the word "conservative."

Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Contemporary Life Passages

"Conservatism" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

In American politics, there is perhaps no word that is more over-simplified than “conservative.” Many people use this term as though it has a single meaning and expresses a single historical-political outlook. Nothing could be further from the truth. The development of American conservatism must be understood as a combination of a number of strands of ideology that often coexist with great tension and difficulty. Although there are many groups that are combined in this larger assortment, two examples will suffice to show the great diversity present in this seemingly simple group.

For instance, there are the “traditionalist conservatives,” who generally are concerned with preserving Western culture and tradition against the developments of modern thought and culture. In many ways, this type of conservatism is the most “conserving”; that is, traditionalists are primarily concerned with maintaining the “old order” of Western civilization and learning. Because of these concerns, the traditionalist conservatives are very wary of any kind of major governmental program that promises to bring a “new order” into existence. While not disagreeing with the idea of progress, these conservatives believe that any such changes should occur organically, in a natural manner over a period of years. 

On the other hand, there are also the “libertarians," who are often classed as “conservatives” as well. They are surprisingly different from the traditionalist conservatives. The libertarians are primarily concerned with maximizing freedom and limiting the role of government in individual lives. In many ways, they represent the kind of modern individualism disagreed with by the traditionalists.

These two opposed groups are able to come together in the general notion of “conservatism” because of their shared attitudes toward the government, particularly the federal government. The traditionalists wish to limit the role of the federal government out of a fear that it will ruin traditional culture through radically new plans and agendas. The libertarians seek to limit it out of a desire to give individual citizens maximum freedom of choice and action. While these two branches of “conservatism” are in many ways opposed to each other, they somehow manage to coexist along with many other positions that are all called “conservative” in spite of similarly striking differences.

Why does the author conclude, “In many ways, [the libertarians] represent the kind of modern individualism disagreed with by the traditionalists.”

Possible Answers:

Traditionalist conservatives oppose all forms of freedom as being mere chances for modern innovation.

They regularly oppose the old culture as being something out of date.

Traditionalist conservatives oppose new initiatives in every form.

They are all advocates of modernity and its changes.

They so focus on individuals that they likely ignore tradition, which does not merely come from individuals.

Correct answer:

They so focus on individuals that they likely ignore tradition, which does not merely come from individuals.

Explanation:

The author does not say much about the libertarians, so let's pay close attention to what actually is said. The key sentence here is, "The libertarians are primarily concerned with maximizing freedom and limiting the role of government in individual lives." Now, it is said that the traditionalist conservatives do take issue with the role of government. However, they also are very concerned with preserving the "old order" and traditions of Western civilization. This sentence states that the libertarians are concerned with maximizing freedom—implying that this is individual freedom. This focus on individuals is very likely to overlook the role of tradition, which is passed from generation to generation, meaning that there is something more important than the individual alone.

Example Question #71 : Content Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from “Advice to Youth” by Mark Twain (1882)

Being told I would be expected to talk here, I inquired what sort of talk I ought to make. They said it should be something suitable to youth--something didactic, instructive, or something in the nature of good advice. Very well. I have a few things in my mind which I have often longed to say for the instruction of the young; for it is in one’s tender early years that such things will best take root and be most enduring and most valuable. First, then I will say to you my young friends--and I say it beseechingly, urgently-- Always obey your parents, when they are present. This is the best policy in the long run, because if you don’t, they will make you. Most parents think they know better than you do, and you can generally make more by humoring that superstition than you can by acting on your own better judgment.

Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any, also to strangers, and sometimes to others. If a person offends you and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. That will be sufficient. If you shall find that he had not intended any offense, come out frankly and confess yourself in the wrong when you struck him; acknowledge it like a man and say you didn’t mean to. 

Go to bed early, get up early--this is wise. Some authorities say get up with the sun; some say get up with one thing, others with another. But a lark is really the best thing to get up with. It gives you a splendid reputation with everybody to know that you get up with the lark; and if you get the right kind of lark, and work at him right, you can easily train him to get up at half past nine, every time--it’s no trick at all.

Now as to the matter of lying. You want to be very careful about lying; otherwise you are nearly sure to get caught. Once caught, you can never again be in the eyes to the good and the pure, what you were before. Many a young person has injured himself permanently through a single clumsy and ill finished lie, the result of carelessness born of incomplete training. Some authorities hold that the young ought not to lie at all. That of course, is putting it rather stronger than necessary; still while I cannot go quite so far as that, I do maintain, and I believe I am right, that the young ought to be temperate in the use of this great art until practice and experience shall give them that confidence, elegance, and precision which alone can make the accomplishment graceful and profitable. Patience, diligence, painstaking attention to detail--these are requirements; these in time, will make the student perfect; upon these only, may he rely as the sure foundation for future eminence. 

But I have said enough. I hope you will treasure up the instructions which I have given you, and make them a guide to your feet and a light to your understanding. Build your character thoughtfully and painstakingly upon these precepts, and by and by, when you have got it built, you will be surprised and gratified to see how nicely and sharply it resembles everybody else’s.

From the whole of this passage what does the author think of most parents?

Possible Answers:

That most parents give beneficial advice

That too few parents are able to employ humor in parenting

That they are misguided in their self-belief

That they are wiser than their children

That they are not strict enough with their children

Correct answer:

That they are misguided in their self-belief

Explanation:

Throughout this passage the author contrasts the general “wise” advice given by parents with the more “worldly” advice being given by the author. The author believes that parents are misguided in their faith in their own authority and superiority. This viewpoint is exemplified in lines 6-8 where the author states: ” Most parents think they know better than you do, and you can generally make more by humoring that superstition than you can by acting on your own better judgment.”

Example Question #2 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Contemporary Life Passages

"Why Learning Multiple Languages in Graduate School is Important" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

In graduate school, students are often required to learn a number of foreign languages in addition to their regular coursework. This can be quite frustrating and difficult, for the normal courses in graduate school require significantly more reading and writing than do undergraduate courses. It is not unusual for graduate students to have regular reading assignments of several hundred pages for each course that they take. Likewise, they often write papers of much greater length than those that they wrote as undergraduate students. When language examinations are added to this difficult course load, it can be very frustrating for graduate students to try to find the time to prepare for these additional examinations.

Although these frustrations are understandable, this system has not been created solely to cause woe for graduate students. Much of the work for which these students are being prepared will focus on research. While much has been written in English about many topics, adequate research can only be done if one is able to read what people have written in other languages. For instance, there are many important articles and books written about almost every topic by European scholars. If a graduate student does not know any foreign languages, all of these article and books will be impossible to read, and hence useless to their research endeavors. This would be a great loss for a student's research. Therefore, in spite of its frustrating aspects, the language examination process is an important component of graduate school education.

Which of the following sentences implies a negative outcome that might occur if graduate students no longer were required to study (and be examined in) foreign languages?

Possible Answers:

This can be quite frustrating and difficult, for the normal courses in graduate school require significantly more reading and writing than do undergraduate courses.

Therefore, in spite of its frustrating aspects, the language examination process is an important component of graduate school education.

Much of the work for which these students are being prepared will focus on research.

If a graduate student does not know any foreign languages, all of these article and books will be impossible to read and hence useless to their research endeavors.

Although these frustrations are understandable, this system has not been created solely to cause woe for graduate students.

Correct answer:

If a graduate student does not know any foreign languages, all of these article and books will be impossible to read and hence useless to their research endeavors.

Explanation:

Throughout the second paragraph, it is argued that graduate students are being trained to do research. The place of foreign languages in graduate study is justified in light of this training. The correct answer among the options provided is the one that explains what will occur if the students are not able to read foreign languages: the many articles and books written in other languages will be useless because the students will be unable to read them.

Example Question #94 : Critical Comprehension

"The Aging of Public Transportation Systems" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

As cities develop, their public transportation systems often show signs of aging that are mixed with aspects that are quite up-to-date.  An example of such a situation can be found in the transportation system in Washington DC. This system is made up of a mixture of buses and trains that connect people to locations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. While the system has been well maintained and updated over the years, it still shows evidence that certain sections are older than others.

This is particularly noticeable when one considers the multiple lines that connect in Washington DC itself. Within the city, there are five different sets of tracks that run in various directions and to sundry places. A number of the newer lines are in excellent condition and rarely break down; however, the case of the red line is somewhat different. This oldest line of the metro train system often has issues because of its age, experiencing a number of track and signal issues even at rush hour when the overall system is its most efficient. Admittedly, the transportation authority is working to update this line and make it less problematic. Still, until this work is completed, it is obvious to all who are familiar with the metro train system that the red line is the oldest and most out of date.

Why is it obvious to all who are familiar with the metro train system that the red line is the oldest and most out of date?

Possible Answers:

Its tracks are visibly rusting and showing wear after many years of use.

It is the most prone to break down because of its aging parts.

It travels from Maryland to DC and back out to another section of Maryland, which is very strange.

Its signals look much older than the others, indicating the age of the line.

It is the slowest metro line in the city.

Correct answer:

It is the most prone to break down because of its aging parts.

Explanation:

Do not infer anything more than you can from the paragraph itself. Some of the wrong answers come up with details that are not at all justified. We are not told anything about rust on the tracks or the appearance of the signals. All that we know from the paragraph is that the red line is the most prone to break down due to its aging parts. This is what allows those familiar with the system to know that is the oldest and most out of date.

Example Question #21 : Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from What I Think and Feel at Twenty-Five (1922) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

As a man grows older it stands to reason that his vulnerability increases. Three years ago, for instance, I could be hurt in only one way—through myself. If my best friend’s wife had her hair torn off by an electric washing-machine, I was grieved, of course. I would make my friend a long speech full of “old mans,” and finish up with a paragraph from Washington’s Farewell Address; but when I’d finished I could go to a good restaurant and enjoy my dinner as usual. In fact I was pretty much invulnerable. I put up a conventional wail whenever a ship was sunk or a train got wrecked; but I don’t suppose, if the whole city of Chicago had been wiped out, I’d have lost a night’s sleep over it—unless something led me to believe that St. Paul was the next city on the list. Even then I could have moved my luggage over to Minneapolis and rested pretty comfortably all night.

But that was three years ago when I was still a young man. I was only twenty-two. Now, I’m vulnerable. I’m vulnerable in every way. I used to have about ten square feet of skin vulnerable to chills and fevers. Now I have about twenty. I have not personally enlarged, the twenty feet includes the skin of my family, but I might as well have, because if a chill or fever strikes any bit of that twenty feet of skin I begin to shiver. And so I ooze gently into middle-age; for the true middle-age is not the acquirement of years, but the acquirement of a family. The incomes of the childless have wonderful elasticity. Two people require a room and a bath; a couple with child requires the millionaire’s suite on the sunny side of the hotel. And yet I think that marriage is the most satisfactory institution we have. I’m simply stating my belief that when Life has used us for its purposes it takes away all our attractive qualities and gives us, instead, ponderous but shallow convictions of our own wisdom and “experience.” The older I grow the more I get so I don’t know anything. If I had been asked to do this article about five years ago it might have been worth reading.

The reference to the whole city of Chicago being wiped out is meant to highlight which aspect of the author’s character as a young man?

Possible Answers:

Thoughtfulness 

Wisdom 

Shallowness

Invulnerability

Depravity 

Correct answer:

Invulnerability

Explanation:

The author references the destruction of Chicago to highlight how little his younger self cared about the troubles and difficulties of the world. The author states that had the whole city of Chicago been destroyed he would not have “lost sleep over it.” This is meant to contrast against how the author feels now, which is much more vulnerable to the tragedies and obstacles of the world. It is meant to highlight is invulnerability as a younger man with his susceptibility as an older man.

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