ISEE Upper Level Reading : Making Inferences and Predictions in Contemporary Life Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences And Predictions 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 would NOT agree with the statement that __________.

Possible Answers:

nature is inherently flawed

artists should study natural objects

artists can make natural imperfections disappear from their art

artists can always improve their abilities

natural objects have no imperfections

Correct answer:

natural objects have no imperfections

Explanation:

The very first statement in the passage is that "all objects . . . upon close examination will be found to have their blemishes and defects." The idea that natural objects do have imperfections is the entire framework for the passage.

Example Question #3 : Textual Relationships 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 would agree with the statement that __________.

Possible Answers:

artists should only paint abstract forms

nature is horribly corrupted

all artists can perfect the forms of nature

artists can never understand the forms of nature

nature is always perfectly beautiful and harmonious

Correct answer:

all artists can perfect the forms of nature

Explanation:

The entire passage is advice to artists on how to perfect the flaws in nature, and how the best way to understand the flaws is to study them. Most of all, the author claims that artists can perfect the flaws of nature through their own work.

Example Question #13 : Single Answer Questions

"Poetry and Philosophy" by Justin Bailey

As the logical positivism rose to ascendancy, poetic language was increasingly seen as merely emotive. Wittgenstein’s influential Tractatus argued that only language corresponding to observable states of affairs in the world was meaningful, thus ruling out the value of imaginative language in saying anything about the world. Poetry’s contribution was rather that it showed what could not be said, a layer of reality which Wittgenstein called the “mystical.” Despite Wittgenstein’s interest in the mystical value of poetry, his successors abandoned the mystical as a meaningful category, exiling poetry in a sort of no man’s land where its only power to move came through the empathy of shared feeling.

Yet some thinkers, like Martin Heidegger, reacted strongly to the pretensions of an instrumental theory of knowledge to make sense of the world. Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur all gave central value to poetry in their philosophical method; signifying a growing sense among continental thinkers that poetic knowing was an important key to recovering some vital way of talking about and experiencing the world that had been lost.

It can be inferred from the passage that __________.

Possible Answers:

Heidegger's complaint was that philosophers were taking poetic language too seriously in their philosophical method

most positivists followed Wittgenstein in arguing for poetic knowledge as a meaningful category in philosophy

some of Wittgenstein's successors used his work to exclude something that was important to Wittgenstein

poetry's power to move through empathetic feeling signifies that its claims about the world are true

philosophers agree that instrumental theories of knowledge are sufficient in understanding the world

Correct answer:

some of Wittgenstein's successors used his work to exclude something that was important to Wittgenstein

Explanation:

This answer is taken from the final sentence of the first paragraph. Wittgenstein wanted to make room for poetry in his category of the mystical, but his successors simply abandoned it, citing his work.

Example Question #1 : Textual Relationships In Contemporary Life 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 which of these statements about lying would the author most likely support?

Possible Answers:

It is always wrong and risky to tell a lie.

Parents lie to their children as commonly as children lie to their parents.

Lying is a malevolent force that holds back the progress of the world.

It is acceptable to lie to one’s parents, but never to a friend or a stranger.

It is necessary to practice the art of deceit before employing it too frequently.

Correct answer:

It is necessary to practice the art of deceit before employing it too frequently.

Explanation:

In the first sentence of the fourth paragraph the author introduces a discussion on the art of lying by stating: “You want to be very careful about lying; otherwise you are nearly sure to get caught.” Then, later in the paragraph the author says: ”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.” This tells you that the author believes it is necessary to practice the art of deceit before using it too frequently.

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences About The Author Or Humanities Passage Content

Adapted from “How I Conquered Stage Fright” by Mark Twain (1906)

My heart goes out in sympathy to anyone who is making his first appearance before an audience of human beings. I recall the occasion of my first appearance. San Francisco knew me then only as a reporter, and I was to make my bow to San Francisco as a lecturer. I knew that nothing short of compulsion would get me to the theater. So I bound myself by a hard-and-fast contract so that I could not escape. I got to the theater forty-five minutes before the hour set for the lecture. My knees were shaking so that I didn't know whether I could stand up. If there is an awful, horrible malady in the world, it is stage-fright--and seasickness. They are a pair. I had stage-fright then for the first and last time. I was only seasick once, too. It was on a little ship on which there were two hundred other passengers. I--was--sick. I was so sick that there wasn't any left for those other two hundred passengers.

It was dark and lonely behind the scenes in that theater, and I peeked through the little peek holes they have in theater curtains and looked into the big auditorium. That was dark and empty, too. By and by it lighted up, and the audience began to arrive. I had got a number of friends of mine, stalwart men, to sprinkle themselves through the audience armed with big clubs. Every time I said anything they could possibly guess I intended to be funny, they were to pound those clubs on the floor. Then there was a kind lady in a box up there, also a good friend of mine, the wife of the governor. She was to watch me intently, and whenever I glanced toward her she was going to deliver a gubernatorial laugh that would lead the whole audience into applause.

At last I began. I had the manuscript tucked under a United States flag in front of me where I could get at it in case of need. But I managed to get started without it. I walked up and down--I was young in those days and needed the exercise--and talked and talked. Right in the middle of the speech I had placed a gem. I had put in a moving, pathetic part which was to get at the hearts and souls of my hearers. When I delivered it they did just what I hoped and expected. They sat silent and awed. I had touched them. Then I happened to glance up at the box where the Governor's wife was--you know what happened.

Well, after the first agonizing five minutes, my stage fright left me, never to return. I know if I was going to be hanged I could get up and make a good showing, and I intend to. But I shall never forget my feelings before the agony left me, and I got up here to thank you for her for helping my daughter, by your kindness, to live through her first appearance. And I want to thank you for your appreciation of her singing, which is, by the way, hereditary.

From this passage it can be inferred that __________ is most responsible for stage-fright.

Possible Answers:

uncertainty

overconfidence

the audience 

faithlessness 

timing 

Correct answer:

uncertainty

Explanation:

From the conclusion of this passage you know that the author is giving this speech to thank an audience for treating his daughter with such kindness and understanding during her first appearance on stage. From the introduction you know that the passage is focused on describing the difficulties of speaking on stage when it is your first experience with public-speaking. From these two clues it is clear that the author believes uncertainty (or not knowing what to expect from a novel experience) is most responsible for stage-freight.

Example Question #4 : Textual Relationships In Contemporary Life Passages

"American Students and Foreign Languages" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

American students often find it difficult to understand the need for learning a foreign language. In part, this lack of understanding seems to occur because of the insulated nature of American geography. Unlike Europe, America is a massive country, comprised of states that all speak the same language. When an American travels from state to state, he or she is not confronted with a completely different language group as is the case when, for example, a Frenchman travels from his native land to the neighboring country of Italy or to England. Although America does have Canada to its north and Mexico to its south, still it does not have the great internal variety of languages as one finds in the small European continent; therefore, students often do not have the experience of the practical importance of knowing other languages.

Of course, America has always been called the “melting pot,” for many peoples have arrived on these shores bringing their own distinctive cultures and languages. Still, this very expression—“melting pot”—shows that these immigrant cultures do not forever retain their own particular manners and languages. With time, these varied cultures become part of the American culture as a whole. While they do influence and change the culture, they likewise become assimilated into it. Their spoken language becomes English. Even if they retain their mother tongue, they generally speak it privately. This is done as a matter of personal heritage, not as part of the day-to-day life in the culture.

Additionally, America’s global dominance likewise allows Americans to avoid learning other languages. Since America has such influence over the rest of the world, it is generally in the interests of other peoples to learn English in order to be part of the economic, political, and military world in which America operates; therefore, even at international meetings that are filled with people from many nationalities and language groups, English-speakers are at an advantage because they can talk with almost anyone. The work and learning of other peoples thus allows the Americans to convince themselves that there is no need to learn another language.

Lastly, American education has come to emphasize mathematics and science to such a great degree that things such as language can often seem unimportant. The main goals of education are said to be the training of students for the technology workforce. If this is presented as the main goal of school, few children will understand why any of the non-science subjects are included in the curriculum. If a subject does not help in learning math and science, it will appear to be irrelevant. In particular, foreign languages do not seem to add to the teaching of math and science, which can be done very easily and effectively in English alone.

Of course, many other reasons could be considered, and a more detailed discussion would undertake such a lengthy investigation. Still, the factors discussed above do provide some sense as to why American students find it difficult to understand the importance of learning a foreign language.

Based on what is said in the fourth paragraph (the one beginning “Lastly . . .”), what sort of change in American education could help make it easier for students to see the importance of learning foreign languages?

Possible Answers:

American education could choose to show how math and science has been studied in other countries throughout history.

American education could choose to focus on all branches of knowledge instead of making math and science the singular goal of education.

American educators could be trained in foreign countries. These experiences would make the teachers more likely to understand the importance of foreign languages.

American education could use other languages while teaching math and science, thus exposing their students to other languages.

American educators could explain that other countries do find languages important, even if it is not important for Americans.

Correct answer:

American education could choose to focus on all branches of knowledge instead of making math and science the singular goal of education.

Explanation:

The fourth paragraph clearly states that the problem is one of emphasis. It is claimed that American education over-emphasizes math and science, making languages appear to be unimportant. This colors the very goals of education itself: "The main goals of education are said to be the training of students for the technology workforce." The implication is that improvement could come by showing that education has broader goals than this. The best answer among those provided is "American education could choose to focus on all branches of knowledge instead of making math and science the singular goal of education."

Example Question #1 : Making Predictions

Adapted from Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads by John A. Lomax (1910)

The big ranches of the West are now being cut up into small farms. The nester has come, and come to stay. Gone is the buffalo and the free grass of the open plain—even the stinging lizard, the horned frog, the centipede, the prairie dog, the rattlesnake, are fast disappearing. Save in some of the secluded valleys of southern New Mexico, the old-time round-up is no more; the trails to Kansas and to Montana have become grass-grown or lost in fields of waving grain; the maverick steer, the regal longhorn, has been supplanted by his unpoetic but more beefy and profitable Polled Angus, Durham, and Hereford cousins from across the seas. The changing and romantic West of the early days lives mainly in story and in song. The last figure to vanish is the cowboy, the animating spirit of the vanishing era. He sits his horse easily as he rides through a wide valley, enclosed by mountains, clad in the hazy purple of coming night,—with his face turned steadily down the long, long road, "the road that the sun goes down." Dauntless, reckless, without the unearthly purity of Sir Galahad though as gentle to a woman as King Arthur, he is truly a knight of the twentieth century. A vagrant puff of wind shakes a corner of the crimson handkerchief knotted loosely at his throat; the thud of his pony's feet mingling with the jingle of his spurs is borne back; and as the careless, gracious, lovable figure disappears over the divide, the breeze brings to the ears, faint and far yet cheery still, the refrain of a cowboy song.

The next paragraph will most likely contain __________.

Possible Answers:

a critique of the Wild West lifestyle

an introduction of the American cowboy

a discussion of profitable ranching

a description of cowboy songs

a comparison of cowboy and Arthurian legends

Correct answer:

a description of cowboy songs

Explanation:

This paragraph is an introduction of the American cowboy, so it is unlikely that the next will be the same. More likely, the next paragraph will expound on what this one mentioned at the end: the cowboy song. Also, earlier in the paragraph the author mentions that “The changing and romantic West of the early days lives mainly in story and in song.” If he wants to tell us more about the West, it would make sense that he discuss the songs to do so.

Example Question #1 : Inferences And Predictions In Narrative Humanities Passages

Adapted from Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads by John A. Lomax (1910)

The big ranches of the West are now being cut up into small farms. The nester has come, and come to stay. Gone is the buffalo and the free grass of the open plain—even the stinging lizard, the horned frog, the centipede, the prairie dog, the rattlesnake, are fast disappearing. Save in some of the secluded valleys of southern New Mexico, the old-time round-up is no more; the trails to Kansas and to Montana have become grass-grown or lost in fields of waving grain; the maverick steer, the regal longhorn, has been supplanted by his unpoetic but more beefy and profitable Polled Angus, Durham, and Hereford cousins from across the seas. The changing and romantic West of the early days lives mainly in story and in song. The last figure to vanish is the cowboy, the animating spirit of the vanishing era. He sits his horse easily as he rides through a wide valley, enclosed by mountains, clad in the hazy purple of coming night,—with his face turned steadily down the long, long road, "the road that the sun goes down." Dauntless, reckless, without the unearthly purity of Sir Galahad though as gentle to a woman as King Arthur, he is truly a knight of the twentieth century. A vagrant puff of wind shakes a corner of the crimson handkerchief knotted loosely at his throat; the thud of his pony's feet mingling with the jingle of his spurs is borne back; and as the careless, gracious, lovable figure disappears over the divide, the breeze brings to the ears, faint and far yet cheery still, the refrain of a cowboy song.

As can be inferred from the passage, the author most values __________.

Possible Answers:

the ranching culture of the American West

a scholarly approach to legends

the profitability of farms and ranches

supporting local farms and ranches

preserving the natural ecosystem

Correct answer:

the ranching culture of the American West

Explanation:

By describing the cowboy as a homegrown hero, the author presents him as a cultural figure instead of a historical or political one. He says that the legends are carried through stories and songs, both cultural art forms. It is therefore reasonable to say that he most values the ranching culture of the American West, as opposed to, say, the economic value of ranching or the ecosystem of the prairies.

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