ISEE Lower Level Reading : Comparing and Contrasting in History Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Textual Relationships In History Passages

Adapted from The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon (1921)

I am going to take you to the top of the highest pyramid and I am going to ask that you imagine yourself possessed of the eyes of a hawk. Way, way off, in the distance, far beyond the yellow sands of the desert, you will see something green and shimmering. It is a valley situated between two rivers. It is the land of mystery and wonder which the Greeks called Mesopotamia—the "country between the rivers."

The names of the two rivers are the Euphrates and the Tigris. They begin their course amidst the snows of the mountains of Armenia and slowly they flow through the southern plain until they reach the muddy banks of the Persian gulf. They perform a very useful service. They turn the arid regions of Western Asia into a fertile garden.

The valley of the Nile had attracted people because it had offered them food upon fairly easy terms. The "land between the rivers" was popular for the same reason. It was a country full of promise and both the inhabitants of the northern mountains and the tribes which roamed through the southern deserts tried to claim this territory as their own and most exclusive possession. The constant rivalry between the mountaineers and the desert-nomads led to endless warfare. Only the strongest and the bravest could hope to survive, and that will explain why Mesopotamia became the home of very strong people.

In the underlined sentences, Mesopotamia is primarily compared to __________.

Possible Answers:


The Euphrates

The Tigris



Correct answer:



“Mesopotamia” is the area of the world between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris; it was for a time also called “Persia.” So, none of these can be the correct answer. The correct answer is “Egypt.” The author compares Mesopotamia to Egypt in this passage when the author says, “The valley of the Nile had attracted people because it had offered them food upon fairly easy terms. The 'land between the rivers' was popular for the same reason” (Egypt being in the valley of the Nile).

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