ISEE Lower Level Reading : Determining Context-Dependent Word Meanings in Literature Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #21 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Lion’s Share" in The Fables of Aesop by Aesop (trans. Jacobs 1902)

The Lion once went hunting with the Fox, the Jackal, and the Wolf. They hunted and they hunted till at last they surprised a Stag, and soon took its life. Then came the question of how the spoil should be divided. "Quarter me this Stag," roared the Lion; so the other animals skinned it and cut it into four parts. Then the Lion took his stand in front of the carcass and pronounced judgment: "The first quarter is for me in my capacity as King of Beasts; the second is mine as arbiter; another share comes to me for my part in the chase; and as for the fourth quarter, well, as for that, I should like to see which of you will dare to lay a paw upon it." "Humph," grumbled the Fox as he walked away with his tail between his legs; but he spoke in a low growl. “You may share the labors of the great, but you will not share the spoil."

The underlined word “spoil” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

ruin 

snack 

prize

water

area

Correct answer:

prize

Explanation:

In this context, the word “spoil” is used to refer to the stag that has been captured. As such, it is closest in meaning to “prize.” In other contexts in which "spoil" is used as a verb, to "spoil" something can mean to ruin it.

Example Question #98 : Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Lion’s Share" in The Fables of Aesop by Aesop (trans. Jacobs 1902)

The Lion once went hunting with the Fox, the Jackal, and the Wolf. They hunted and they hunted till at last they surprised a Stag, and soon took its life. Then came the question of how the spoil should be divided. "Quarter me this Stag," roared the Lion; so the other animals skinned it and cut it into four parts. Then the Lion took his stand in front of the carcass and pronounced judgment: "The first quarter is for me in my capacity as King of Beasts; the second is mine as arbiter; another share comes to me for my part in the chase; and as for the fourth quarter, well, as for that, I should like to see which of you will dare to lay a paw upon it." "Humph," grumbled the Fox as he walked away with his tail between his legs; but he spoke in a low growl. “You may share the labors of the great, but you will not share the spoil."

The underlined word “capacity” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

Wish 

Ability

Role

Desire 

Space

Correct answer:

Role

Explanation:

The word “capacity” is used in this context to mean role. The Lion says, “The first quarter is for me in my capacity as King of Beasts.” None of the other answer choices would make sense in that sentence. To help you, "capacity" can also refer to someone’s "capacity" to do something, meaning their ability to do something, but this is a different meaning of the word “capacity" than the one that is used in the sentence.

Example Question #72 : Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Lion and the Mouse" by Aesop (trans. Jacobs 1909)

Once when a Lion was asleep a little Mouse began running up and down on top of him; this soon woke up the Lion, who placed his huge paw upon the mouse, and opened his big jaws to swallow him. "Pardon, O King," cried the little Mouse: "forgive me this time, I shall never forget it: who knows but maybe I shall be able to assist you one of these days?" The Lion was so tickled at the idea of the Mouse being able to help him that he lifted up his paw and let him go. Sometime after the Lion was caught in a trap, and the hunters who desired to carry him alive to the King, tied him to a tree while they went in search of a wagon to carry him on. Just then the little Mouse happened to pass by, and seeing the sad plight in which the Lion was in, went up to him and soon gnawed away the ropes that bound the King of the Beasts. "Was I not right?" said the little Mouse. “Little friends may prove great friends and a small mercy can go a long way.”

The underlined word “plight” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

flight

plan

enjoyment

trouble

trapped 

Correct answer:

trouble

Explanation:

The word “plight” means difficulty, dilemma or trouble. If you were not aware of this, you would have to use the context of the passage to try and figure out the meaning of the word. The author describes how the mouse finds the lion tied down and “[sees] the sad plight in which the lion was in.” The word "sad" suggests that "plight" must be a bad thing, and the context of the rest of the passage tells you that the lion is in trouble.

Example Question #74 : Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Lion and the Mouse" by Aesop (trans. Jacobs 1909)

Once when a Lion was asleep a little Mouse began running up and down on top of him; this soon woke up the Lion, who placed his huge paw upon the mouse, and opened his big jaws to swallow him. "Pardon, O King," cried the little Mouse: "forgive me this time, I shall never forget it: who knows but maybe I shall be able to assist you one of these days?" The Lion was so tickled at the idea of the Mouse being able to help him that he lifted up his paw and let him go. Sometime after the Lion was caught in a trap, and the hunters who desired to carry him alive to the King, tied him to a tree while they went in search of a wagon to carry him on. Just then the little Mouse happened to pass by, and seeing the sad plight in which the Lion was in, went up to him and soon gnawed away the ropes that bound the King of the Beasts. "Was I not right?" said the little Mouse. “Little friends may prove great friends and a small mercy can go a long way.”

The underlined word “assist” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

kill

help

explain

reward

order

Correct answer:

help

Explanation:

To “assist” someone means to help him or her. If you did not know this, you would have to use the context of the passage to try and figure out the meaning of the word. In the passage, the mouse says, “who knows but maybe I shall be able to assist you one of these days?" Which is then followed by the author describing how “the Lion was so tickled at the idea of the Mouse being able to help him that he lifted up his paw and let him go.” The word "assist" in the first quotation is linked to the word "help" in the second quotation. 

Example Question #75 : Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Lion and the Mouse" by Aesop (trans. Jacobs 1909)

Once when a Lion was asleep a little Mouse began running up and down on top of him; this soon woke up the Lion, who placed his huge paw upon the mouse, and opened his big jaws to swallow him. "Pardon, O King," cried the little Mouse: "forgive me this time, I shall never forget it: who knows but maybe I shall be able to assist you one of these days?" The Lion was so tickled at the idea of the Mouse being able to help him that he lifted up his paw and let him go. Sometime after the Lion was caught in a trap, and the hunters who desired to carry him alive to the King, tied him to a tree while they went in search of a wagon to carry him on. Just then the little Mouse happened to pass by, and seeing the sad plight in which the Lion was in, went up to him and soon gnawed away the ropes that bound the King of the Beasts. "Was I not right?" said the little Mouse. “Little friends may prove great friends and a small mercy can go a long way.”

The underlined word “tickled” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

compassionate

suspicious 

encouraged

fearful

entertained

Correct answer:

entertained

Explanation:

The author describes how the lion is “tickled” by the idea of the mouse being able to help him and because of that lets the mouse go. This suggests that "tickled" must mean something positive, so it cannot be "suspicious" or "fearful." "Compassionate" means loving and kind, which might describe the lion’s actions, but does not describe his reaction. The correct answer is “entertained.” The lion is entertained by the idea of the mouse being able to help him.

Example Question #31 : Language In Literature Passages

Adapted from Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (1908)

Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde's Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.

There are plenty of people in Avonlea and out of it, who can attend closely to their neighbor's business by dint of neglecting their own; but Mrs. Rachel Lynde was one of those capable creatures who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks into the bargain. She was a notable housewife; her work was always done and well done; she "ran" the Sewing Circle, helped run the Sunday-school, and was the strongest prop of the Church Aid Society and Foreign Missions Auxiliary. Yet with all this Mrs. Rachel found abundant time to sit for hours at her kitchen window, knitting "cotton warp" quilts—she had knitted sixteen of them, as Avonlea housekeepers were wont to tell in awed voices—and keeping a sharp eye on the main road that crossed the hollow and wound up the steep red hill beyond. Since Avonlea occupied a little triangular peninsula jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence with water on two sides of it, anybody who went out of it or into it had to pass over that hill road and so run the unseen gauntlet of Mrs. Rachel's all-seeing eye.

She was sitting there one afternoon in early June. The sun was coming in at the window warm and bright; the orchard on the slope below the house was in a bridal flush of pinky-white bloom, hummed over by a myriad of bees. Thomas Lynde—a meek little man whom Avonlea people called "Rachel Lynde's husband"—was sowing his late turnip seed on the hill field beyond the barn; and Matthew Cuthbert ought to have been sowing his on the big red brook field away over by Green Gables. Mrs. Rachel knew that he ought because she had heard him tell Peter Morrison the evening before in William J. Blair's store over at Carmody that he meant to sow his turnip seed the next afternoon. Peter had asked him, of course, for Matthew Cuthbert had never been known to volunteer information about anything in his whole life.

What is conveyed by the fact that the word "ran" is placed in quotation marks in the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

This word is part of a definition of another word.

Mrs. Rachel Lynde doesn't run the Sewing Circle very well.

This word is spoken out loud by a character in the story.

No one is officially in charge of the Sewing Circle, but Mrs. Rachel Lynde is effectively in charge.

Mrs. Rachel Lynde makes everyone who attends the Sewing Circle run around while sewing.

Correct answer:

No one is officially in charge of the Sewing Circle, but Mrs. Rachel Lynde is effectively in charge.

Explanation:

By placing "ran" in quotation marks in the second paragraph, the author is conveying that no one is formally in charge of the Sewing Circle, but that Mrs. Rachel Lynde is unofficially in charge.

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