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

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

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

Adapted from "The Philosophy of Composition" by Edgar Allan Poe (1846)

I have often thought how interesting a magazine paper might be written by any author who would—that is to say, who could—detail, step by step, the processes by which any one of his compositions attained its ultimate point of completion. Why such a paper has never been given to the world, I am much at a loss to say—but, perhaps, the autorial vanity has had more to do with the omission than any one other cause. Most writers—poets in especial—prefer having it understood that they compose by a species of fine frenzy—an ecstatic intuition—and would positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought—at the true purposes seized only at the last moment—at the innumerable glimpses of idea that arrived not at the maturity of full view—at the fully-matured fancies discarded in despair as unmanageable—at the cautious selections and rejections—at the painful erasures and interpolations—in a word, at the wheels and pinions—the tackle for scene-shifting—the step-ladders, and demon-traps—the cock's feathers, the red paint and the black patches, which, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, constitute the properties of the literary histrio.

I am aware, on the other hand, that the case is by no means common, in which an author is at all in condition to retrace the steps by which his conclusions have been attained. In general, suggestions, having arisen pell-mell are pursued and forgotten in a similar manner.

What does Poe give as the primary reason that an article by an author about how he composed a work has not been written?

Possible Answers:

Authors are too vain to admit how difficult the writing process is.

The process of writing is too painful for authors to write about.

Authors write according to inuition, and such an article would take too much planning.

Poe offers no reason for why such a work has not been written.

Correct answer:

Authors are too vain to admit how difficult the writing process is.

Explanation:

Poe mentions "autorial vanity" and how authors prefer not to let readers see how they do what they do as the primary reason for the lack of such an article.

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

Adapted from "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift (1729)

It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in stroling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.

I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the common-wealth, would deserve so well of the publick, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them, as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years, upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true, a child just dropt from its dam, may be supported by her milk, for a solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the cloathing of many thousands.

In the passage above, the underlined word "prodigious" most likely means __________.

Possible Answers:

abnormal

unnatural

inordinate

massive

Correct answer:

inordinate

Explanation:

In this passage, Swift's speaker is talking of the number of children as "prodigious," which means very large in number. So, "inordinate," an adjective that means very large in number or excessive, is the best answer choice. The other choices all have gradations of meaning that are not supported by the rest of the passage.

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

Adapted from "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift (1729)

It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabin doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in stroling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.

I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the common-wealth, would deserve so well of the public, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them, as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, and I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true, a child just dropt from its dam, may be supported by her milk, for a solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing of many thousands.

In the first sentence, Swift's narrator is stating that __________.

Possible Answers:

it is depressing that so few beggars exist

it is sad that so many people in the country have to beg to survive

it is sad that there are so many beggars in the city

it is depressing to see beggars everywhere

Correct answer:

it is depressing to see beggars everywhere

Explanation:

Swift says it is "a melancholy object" (we would say "a depressing subject") to see so many beggars and their children both in the city and in the country.

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

Adapted from "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift (1729)

It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabin doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in stroling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.

I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the common-wealth, would deserve so well of the public, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them, as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, and I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true, a child just dropt from its dam, may be supported by her milk, for a solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing of many thousands.

Swift's narrator implies his project will do all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

relieve the parents of these children of a great burden

contribute to clothing others

contribute to the feeding of others

contribute to the number of children being born

Correct answer:

contribute to the number of children being born

Explanation:

Swift's narrator "propose[s] to provide for [one-year-old infants born to parents who cannot support them] in such a manner, as, instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing of many thousands." However, he says nothing about his project causing the number of children being born to increase.

Example Question #4 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)

Whoever considers the final cause of the world, will discern a multitude of uses that result. They all admit of being thrown into one of the following classes: Commodity; Beauty; Language; and Discipline.

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those advantages which our senses owe to nature. This, of course, is a benefit which is temporary and mediate, not ultimate, like its service to the soul. Yet although low, it is perfect in its kind, and is the only use of nature which all men apprehend. The misery of man appears like childish petulance, when we explore the steady and prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green ball which floats him through the heavens. What angels invented these splendid ornaments, these rich conveniences, this ocean of air above, this ocean of water beneath, this firmament of earth between? This zodiac of lights, this tent of dropping clouds, this striped coat of climates, this fourfold year? Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn serve him. The field is at once his floor, his work-yard, his play-ground, his garden, and his bed.

Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other's hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man.

Which of the following is the likely meaning of the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

Although men are lowly, they can still benefit from nature.

The use of nature to man is its greatest perfection.

Although nature is perfect, its use to man is still a lowly benefit.

All men are aware of nature's use to them, even though it is the least of nature's benefits.

Correct answer:

All men are aware of nature's use to them, even though it is the least of nature's benefits.

Explanation:

Emerson is suggesting that, although it has many higher benefits to man, nature's commodity and usefulness is a benefit which all men understand and are aware of.

Example Question #13 : Context Dependent Meanings Of Words And Phrases In Narrative Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)

Whoever considers the final cause of the world, will discern a multitude of uses that result. They all admit of being thrown into one of the following classes: Commodity; Beauty; Language; and Discipline.

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those advantages which our senses owe to nature. This, of course, is a benefit which is temporary and mediate, not ultimate, like its service to the soul. Yet although low, it is perfect in its kind, and is the only use of nature which all men apprehend. The misery of man appears like childish petulance, when we explore the steady and prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green ball which floats him through the heavens. What angels invented these splendid ornaments, these rich conveniences, this ocean of air above, this ocean of water beneath, this firmament of earth between? This zodiac of lights, this tent of dropping clouds, this striped coat of climates, this fourfold year? Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn serve him. The field is at once his floor, his work-yard, his play-ground, his garden, and his bed.

Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other's hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man.

What would be a reasonable paraphrase of the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

Man's misery is stubborn whereas nature allows for all things to be provided.

Man's misery is nothing compared to everything that nature provides to him.

Man is childish compared to nature.

Nature gives man everything, and yet man is still miserable.

Correct answer:

Man's misery is nothing compared to everything that nature provides to him.

Explanation:

Emerson is saying that all of man's misery is like childishness when we think about everything with which nature provides us.

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

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1849)

Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural history is to give us aid in supernatural history: the use of the outer creation, to give us language for the beings and changes of the inward creation. Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. "Right" means straight; "wrong" means twisted. "Spirit" primarily means wind; "transgression," the crossing of a line; "supercilious," the raising of the eyebrow. We say "the heart" to express emotion, "the head" to denote thought; and "thought" and "emotion" are words borrowed from sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature. Most of the process by which this transformation is made, is hidden from us in the remote time when language was framed; but the same tendency may be daily observed in children. Children and savages use only nouns or names of things, which they convert into verbs, and apply to analogous mental acts.

But this origin of all words that convey a spiritual import—so conspicuous a fact in the history of language—is our least debt to nature. It is not words only that are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic. Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.

Emerson says we are not aware of this tendency to use words for concrete things to signify abstract concepts because __________.

Possible Answers:

the words we now use for these abstractions were coined a long time ago

we cannot remember the original concrete imagery behind the words

we are unaware of the original concrete meanings of these words

we don't know when "language was framed," or in other words, when these words were first coined

Correct answer:

the words we now use for these abstractions were coined a long time ago

Explanation:

Emerson writes, "Most of the process by which this transformation is made, is hidden from us in the remote time when language was framed," meaning that the words for abstractions were coined a very long time ago.

Example Question #22 : Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1849)

Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural history is to give us aid in supernatural history: the use of the outer creation, to give us language for the beings and changes of the inward creation. Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. "Right" means straight; "wrong" means twisted. "Spirit" primarily means wind; "transgression," the crossing of a line; "supercilious," the raising of the eyebrow. We say "the heart" to express emotion, "the head" to denote thought; and "thought" and "emotion" are words borrowed from sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature. Most of the process by which this transformation is made, is hidden from us in the remote time when language was framed; but the same tendency may be daily observed in children. Children and savages use only nouns or names of things, which they convert into verbs, and apply to analogous mental acts.

But this origin of all words that convey a spiritual import—so conspicuous a fact in the history of language—is our least debt to nature. It is not words only that are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic. Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.

When Emerson says that "Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact," he is saying __________.

Possible Answers:

everything we see in nature can be made into a metaphor

all of nature gives us our figures of speech

similes are the most "natural" form of language that we have

everything concrete in nature corresponds to something emotional or intangible

Correct answer:

everything concrete in nature corresponds to something emotional or intangible

Explanation:

Emerson suggests in this sentence that if we see something in nature, it will symbolically correspond to something abstract.

Example Question #8 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1849)

Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural history is to give us aid in supernatural history: the use of the outer creation, to give us language for the beings and changes of the inward creation. Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. "Right" means straight; "wrong" means twisted. "Spirit" primarily means wind; "transgression," the crossing of a line; "supercilious," the raising of the eyebrow. We say "the heart" to express emotion, "the head" to denote thought; and "thought" and "emotion" are words borrowed from sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature. Most of the process by which this transformation is made, is hidden from us in the remote time when language was framed; but the same tendency may be daily observed in children. Children and savages use only nouns or names of things, which they convert into verbs, and apply to analogous mental acts.

But this origin of all words that convey a spiritual import—so conspicuous a fact in the history of language—is our least debt to nature. It is not words only that are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic. Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.

Each of the following images would illustrate Emerson's claims found in the passage EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

"blind as a bat"

"full of hot air"

"cold as ice"

"tough as nails"

Correct answer:

"tough as nails"

Explanation:

Since nails do not occur naturally, Emerson would not have included this simile in his list of examples.

Example Question #9 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" by John Locke (1689)

EPISTLE TO THE READER

I have put into thy hands what has been the diversion of some of my idle and heavy hours. If it has the good luck to prove so of any of thine, and thou hast but half so much pleasure in reading as I had in writing it, thou wilt as little think thy money, as I do my pains, ill bestowed. Mistake not this for a commendation of my work; nor conclude, because I was pleased with the doing of it, that therefore I am fondly taken with it now it is done. He that hawks at larks and sparrows has no less sport, though a much less considerable quarry, than he that flies at nobler game: and he is little acquainted with the subject of this treatise—the UNDERSTANDING—who does not know that, as it is the most elevated faculty of the soul, so it is employed with a greater and more constant delight than any of the other. Its searches after truth are a sort of hawking and hunting, wherein the very pursuit makes a great part of the pleasure. Every step the mind takes in its progress towards Knowledge makes some discovery, which is not only new, but the best too, for the time at least.

For the understanding, like the eye, judging of objects only by its own sight, cannot but be pleased with what it discovers, having less regret for what has escaped it, because it is unknown. Thus he who has raised himself above the alms-basket, and, not content to live lazily on scraps of begged opinions, sets his own thoughts on work, to find and follow truth, will (whatever he lights on) not miss the hunter's satisfaction; every moment of his pursuit will reward his pains with some delight; and he will have reason to think his time not ill-spent, even when he cannot much boast of any great acquisition. This, Reader, is the entertainment of those who let loose their own thoughts, and follow them in writing; which thou oughtest not to envy them, since they afford thee an opportunity of the like diversion, if thou wilt make use of thy own thoughts in reading. It is to them, if they are thy own, that I refer myself: but if they are taken upon trust from others, it is no great matter what they are; they are not following truth, but some meaner consideration; and it is not worth while to be concerned what he says or thinks, who says or thinks only as he is directed by another. If thou judgest for thyself I know thou wilt judge candidly, and then I shall not be harmed or offended, whatever be thy censure. For though it be certain that there is nothing in this Treatise of the truth whereof I am not fully persuaded, yet I consider myself as liable to mistakes as I can think thee, and know that this book must stand or fall with thee, not by any opinion I have of it, but thy own. If thou findest little in it new or instructive to thee, thou art not to blame me for it. It was not meant for those that had already mastered this subject, and made a thorough acquaintance with their own understandings; but for my own information, and the satisfaction of a few friends, who acknowledged themselves not to have sufficiently considered it.

Which of the following best paraphrases the underlined second line of the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

If you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed writing it, it'll be worth your money.

If this essay fills your idle hours the way it filled mine, it'll be worth your money.

If this essay has the good luck to prove its points to you, it'll be worth your money.

If you enjoy reading this half as much as I enjoyed writing it, it'll be worth your money.

Correct answer:

If you enjoy reading this half as much as I enjoyed writing it, it'll be worth your money.

Explanation:

The main clause of the sentence ("[if] thou hast but half so much pleasure in reading as I had in writing it, thou wilt as little think thy money, as I do my pains, ill bestowed") can be accurately rendered in contemporary English as "If you enjoy reading this half as much as I enjoyed writing it, it'll be worth your money."

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