ISEE Lower Level Reading : Language in History Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #131 : Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from A Man Who Coveted Washington’s Shoes by Frank E. Stockton (1896)

The person whose story we are now about to tell was not a Jerseyman, but, as most of the incidents which make him interesting to us occurred in this state, we will give him the benefit of a few years' residence here.

This was General Charles Lee, who might well have been called a soldier of fortune. He was born in England, but the British Isles were entirely too small to satisfy his wild ambitions and his bold spirit. There are few heroes of romance who have had such a wide and varied experience, and who have engaged in so many strange enterprises. He was a brave man and very able, but he had a fault which prevented him from being a high-class soldier: he could not bear authority and was always restive under command of another, and, while always ready to tell other people what they ought to do, was never willing to be told what he ought to do.

He joined the British army when he was a young man, and he first came to this country in 1757, when General Abercrombie brought over an army to fight the French. For three years, Lee was engaged in the wilds and forests, doing battle with the Native Americans and French, and no doubt he had all the adventures an ordinary person would desire, but this experience was far from satisfactory.

The underlined word “able” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

apprehensive

talented

excitable

miserly

generous

Correct answer:

talented

Explanation:

The author says that Lee was “a brave man and very able,” and goes on to talk about how despite being brave and able he had a serious flaw. Based on the construction of the sentence, you can assume that "able" must mean something positive, as it is being contrasted against something negative. That means the answer choice cannot be "miserly" (as that means not generous) and cannot be "apprehensive" (because that means worried). "Excitable" is neither a positive nor a negative word (it means easily excited), so you are left with only "generous" (giving) and "talented" (skilled). “Able” means capable, having the ability to do many things, or talented, so "talented" is the correct answer.

Example Question #132 : Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from A Man Who Coveted Washington’s Shoes by Frank E. Stockton (1896)

The person whose story we are now about to tell was not a Jerseyman, but, as most of the incidents which make him interesting to us occurred in this state, we will give him the benefit of a few years' residence here.

This was General Charles Lee, who might well have been called a soldier of fortune. He was born in England, but the British Isles were entirely too small to satisfy his wild ambitions and his bold spirit. There are few heroes of romance who have had such a wide and varied experience, and who have engaged in so many strange enterprises. He was a brave man and very able, but he had a fault which prevented him from being a high-class soldier: he could not bear authority and was always restive under command of another, and, while always ready to tell other people what they ought to do, was never willing to be told what he ought to do.

He joined the British army when he was a young man, and he first came to this country in 1757, when General Abercrombie brought over an army to fight the French. For three years, Lee was engaged in the wilds and forests, doing battle with the Native Americans and French, and no doubt he had all the adventures an ordinary person would desire, but this experience was far from satisfactory.

The underlined word “satisfactory” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

unacceptable

over-the-top 

under control

boring

good enough

Correct answer:

good enough

Explanation:

The word “satisfactory” means acceptable or good enough. In the context of the passage, it is used to describe how the adventures Lee had while fighting the French and the Native Americans were not satisfactory for him. Given that we are told earlier in the story that Lee has a wild spirit and had an adventurous nature, we can assume that he would want greater and wilder adventures and that those adventures he had while fighting the French and the Native Americans might not have been good enough for him.

Example Question #133 : Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from A Man Who Coveted Washington’s Shoes by Frank E. Stockton (1896)

The person whose story we are now about to tell was not a Jerseyman, but, as most of the incidents which make him interesting to us occurred in this state, we will give him the benefit of a few years' residence here.

This was General Charles Lee, who might well have been called a soldier of fortune. He was born in England, but the British Isles were entirely too small to satisfy his wild ambitions and his bold spirit. There are few heroes of romance who have had such a wide and varied experience, and who have engaged in so many strange enterprises. He was a brave man and very able, but he had a fault which prevented him from being a high-class soldier: he could not bear authority and was always restive under command of another, and, while always ready to tell other people what they ought to do, was never willing to be told what he ought to do.

He joined the British army when he was a young man, and he first came to this country in 1757, when General Abercrombie brought over an army to fight the French. For three years, Lee was engaged in the wilds and forests, doing battle with the Native Americans and French, and no doubt he had all the adventures an ordinary person would desire, but this experience was far from satisfactory.

The underlined word "residence" most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

working

traveling

farming

fighting

living

Correct answer:

living

Explanation:

Your "residence" is the place or the building where you live. In the context of the passage, the author says "but, as most of the incidents which make him interesting to us occurred in this State, we will give him the benefit of a few years' residence here." Here, "residence" means living or residing.

Example Question #21 : Language 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.

The underlined word “arid” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

plentiful

wet

dry

frosty 

stifling

Correct answer:

dry

Explanation:

The word “arid” means dry and not receiving much rain. Assuming you did not know this, you would have to try to figure out the meaning from context. The author says, that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers "turn the arid regions of Western Asia into a fertile garden.” If the regions were previously “arid” and have been turned by water into a “fertile garden,” then the word “arid” must mean the opposite of “wet” and “fertile,” so “dry” is the best possible answer choice. To provide further help, “fertile” means able to produce a lot of food or life; “plentiful” means having a lot or more than enough of something; “frosty” means cold; and “stifling” means uncomfortably hot.

Example Question #294 : Prose Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

History cannot easily go back beyond written records. These alone will preserve a full and accurate account of man's achievements. Manuscripts and books form one class of written records. The old Babylonians used tablets of soft clay, on which signs were impressed with a metal instrument. The tablets were then baked hard in an oven. The Egyptians made a kind of paper out of the papyrus, a plant native to the Nile valley. The Greeks and Romans at first used papyrus, but later they employed the more lasting parchment prepared from sheepskin. Paper seems to have been a Chinese invention. It was introduced into Europe by the Arabs during the twelfth century of our era.

History, based on written records, begins in different countries at varying dates. A few manuscripts and inscriptions found in Egypt date back three or four thousand years before Christ. The annals of Babylonia are scarcely less ancient. Trustworthy records in China and India do not extend beyond 1000 B.C. For the Greeks and Romans the commencement of the historic period must be placed about 750 B.C. The inhabitants of northern Europe did not come into the light of history until about the opening of the Christian era.

The underlined word “employed” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

served 

hired 

used 

fired 

worked 

Correct answer:

used 

Explanation:

In context, the author is discussing the different ways in which different groups of people used materials to keep written records. The author says “The Greeks and Romans at first used papyrus, but later they employed the more lasting parchment prepared from sheepskin.” From this sentence, you learn that the Greeks and Romans first “used” one thing, and then they “employed” another, so “employed” means "used."

Example Question #6 : Evaluative Understanding In Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from The Great Round World and What Is Going On In It, Vol. 2., No. 24 (June, 1898)

There is a very interesting account of the origin of the Red Cross Society. About forty years ago, M. Henry Dimont, a native of Switzerland, having witnessed the unnecessary suffering of the wounded, from lack of care, at the battle of Solferino, published a book, pointing out the necessity of forming a group of nurses to work in the cause of humanity in time of war, regardless of nationality of the injured, and who should be permitted to aid the wounded on the battle-field, under the protection of a flag which should be recognized as neutral. So much interest was taken in the idea that the outcome was a convention held at Geneva in 1864, which was attended by representatives from sixteen of the great nations of the world, who signed an agreement that they would protect members of the association when caring for the wounded on the field of battle. It was decided that the work of the Red Cross Society should not be confined to times of war, but that in case of disasters and calamities the organization was to provide aid. During the past seventeen years the American Red Cross Society has served in fifteen disasters and famines, and Russians, Armenians, and Cubans have all received aid from this society.

The underlined word “permitted” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

denied 

forbidden

allowed 

encouraged 

suspended 

Correct answer:

allowed 

Explanation:

The word “permitted” means allowed. It is the opposite of "forbidden" and "denied." From the context of the sentence, you can assume that "permitted" could not mean "forbidden," "denied," or "suspended" because the article is discussing how the Red Cross was helping people. To help you, "encouraged" means supported, "suspended" means paused, "denied" means refused, and "forbidden" means not allowed

Example Question #5 : Evaluative Understanding In Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from The Great Round World and What Is Going On In It, Vol. 2., No. 24 (June, 1898)

There is a very interesting account of the origin of the Red Cross Society. About forty years ago, M. Henry Dimont, a native of Switzerland, having witnessed the unnecessary suffering of the wounded, from lack of care, at the battle of Solferino, published a book, pointing out the necessity of forming a group of nurses to work in the cause of humanity in time of war, regardless of nationality of the injured, and who should be permitted to aid the wounded on the battle-field, under the protection of a flag which should be recognized as neutral. So much interest was taken in the idea that the outcome was a convention held at Geneva in 1864, which was attended by representatives from sixteen of the great nations of the world, who signed an agreement that they would protect members of the association when caring for the wounded on the field of battle. It was decided that the work of the Red Cross Society should not be confined to times of war, but that in case of disasters and calamities the organization was to provide aid. During the past seventeen years the American Red Cross Society has served in fifteen disasters and famines, and Russians, Armenians, and Cubans have all received aid from this society.

The underlined word “unnecessary” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

entertaining 

horrific 

excessive 

not needed 

desperately needed

Correct answer:

not needed 

Explanation:

The word “necessary” means needed. The prefix "un-" negates the meaning and changes it to the opposite, so “unnecessary” means not needed. To help you, "entertaining" means fun, "excessive" means too much, and "horrific" means causing horror, or bad and unpleasant

Example Question #28 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History Passages

Adapted from A Child’s History of England by Charles Darwin (1905)

Henry Plantagenet, when he was but twenty-one years old, quietly succeeded to the throne of England, according to his agreement made with the late king at Winchester. Six weeks after Stephen’s death, he and his queen, Eleanor, were crowned in that city, into which they rode on horseback in great state, side by side, amidst much shouting and rejoicing, and clashing of music, and strewing of flowers.

The reign of King Henry the Second began well. The king had great possessions, and (with his own property, and with that of his wife) was lord of one-third part of France. He was a young man of strength, ability, and determination, and immediately applied himself to remove some of the evils which had arisen in the last unhappy reign. He took away all the grants of land that had been hastily made, on either side, during the recent struggles; he forced numbers of disorderly soldiers to depart from England; he reclaimed all the castles belonging to the crown; and he forced the wicked nobles to pull down their own castles, to the number of eleven hundred, in which such dismal cruelties had been inflicted on the people.  

The king’s brother, Geoffrey, rose against him in France and forced Henry to wage a war in France. After he had subdued and made a friendly arrangement with his brother (who did not live long), his ambition to increase his possessions involved him in a war with the French king, Louis. He had been on such friendly terms with the French king just before, that to his infant daughter, then a baby in the cradle, he had promised one of his little sons in marriage, who was a child of five years old. However, the war came to nothing at last, and the Pope made the two kings friends again.

The underlined word “late” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

delayed

existing

replaced

arrived

dead

Correct answer:

dead

Explanation:

The word “late” usually means not on time or delayed. This is one of the answer choices available to you; however, in this context, this is not how the word is being used. The word “late” also is often used to mean dead or recently deceased. In context, the author says “Henry Plantagenet . . . quietly succeeded to the throne of England, according to his agreement made with the late King at Winchester.  Six weeks after Stephen’s death . . . “ The fact that Henry became King due to an agreement made with the previous King (Stephen), who are you are told has died, means that when the author describes the King at Winchester as “late,” he means "dead" and not "delayed."

Example Question #22 : Language In History Passages

Adapted from A Child’s History of England by Charles Darwin (1905)

As great and good in peace as he was great and good in war, King Alfred never rested from his labors to improve his people. He loved to talk with clever men and travelers from foreign countries and to write down what they told him for his people to read. He had studied Latin after learning to read English, and now another of his labors was to translate Latin books into the English-Saxon tongue, that his people might be interested and improved by their contents. He made just laws, that they might live more happily and freely; he turned away all partial judges, that no wrong might be done them; he was so careful of their property, and punished robbers so severely that it was a common thing to say that under the great King Alfred, garlands of golden chains and jewels might have hung across the streets, and no man would have touched one. He founded schools, and he patiently heard causes himself in his Court of Justice. The great desires of his heart were, to do right to all his subjects, and to leave England better, wiser, and happier in all ways than he found it. His industry in these efforts was quite astonishing. Every day he divided into certain portions, and in each portion devoted himself to a certain pursuit. That he might divide his time exactly, he had wax torches or candles made, which were all of the same size, were notched across at regular distances, and were always kept burning. Thus, as the candles burnt down, he divided the day into notches, almost as accurately as we now divide it into hours upon the clock. But when the candles were first invented, it was found that the wind and draughts of air, blowing into the palace through the doors and windows and through the chinks in the walls, caused them to gutter and burn unequally. To prevent this, the King had them put into cases formed of wood and white horn. And these were the first lanterns ever made in England.

All this time, he was afflicted with a terrible unknown disease, which caused him violent and frequent pain that nothing could relieve. He bore it, as he had borne all the troubles of his life, like a brave good man, until he was fifty-three years old; and then, having reigned thirty years, he died. He died in the year nine hundred and one; but, long ago as that is, his fame, and the love and gratitude with which his subjects regarded him, are freshly remembered to the present hour.

The underlined word “just” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

harsh

fair

complicated

illegal

only 

Correct answer:

fair

Explanation:

The word “just” means fair and equal; it can also mean only. When it is used to mean fair and equal, it is usually used to describe laws or legal things. However, if you did not know this, it would be necessary to figure out the correct answer from context. The author says “He made just laws, that they might live more happily and freely; he turned away all partial judges, that no wrong might be done them." If the laws he made were “just,” and they made people “live more happily and freely,” it would not make sense for “just” to mean “harsh." Nothing in the passage suggests that the laws were "complicated" or "illegal," and "only" clearly doesn't work in the sentence; we can't say that Alfred made "only laws," as he appears to have made many other changes while king of England. The only answer that makes sense is “fair.”

Example Question #23 : Language In History Passages

Adapted from A Child’s History of England by Charles Darwin (1905)

As great and good in peace as he was great and good in war, King Alfred never rested from his labors to improve his people. He loved to talk with clever men and travelers from foreign countries and to write down what they told him for his people to read. He had studied Latin after learning to read English, and now another of his labors was to translate Latin books into the English-Saxon tongue, that his people might be interested and improved by their contents. He made just laws, that they might live more happily and freely; he turned away all partial judges, that no wrong might be done them; he was so careful of their property, and punished robbers so severely that it was a common thing to say that under the great King Alfred, garlands of golden chains and jewels might have hung across the streets, and no man would have touched one. He founded schools, and he patiently heard causes himself in his Court of Justice. The great desires of his heart were, to do right to all his subjects, and to leave England better, wiser, and happier in all ways than he found it. His industry in these efforts was quite astonishing. Every day he divided into certain portions, and in each portion devoted himself to a certain pursuit. That he might divide his time exactly, he had wax torches or candles made, which were all of the same size, were notched across at regular distances, and were always kept burning. Thus, as the candles burnt down, he divided the day into notches, almost as accurately as we now divide it into hours upon the clock. But when the candles were first invented, it was found that the wind and draughts of air, blowing into the palace through the doors and windows and through the chinks in the walls, caused them to gutter and burn unequally. To prevent this, the King had them put into cases formed of wood and white horn. And these were the first lanterns ever made in England.

All this time, he was afflicted with a terrible unknown disease, which caused him violent and frequent pain that nothing could relieve. He bore it, as he had borne all the troubles of his life, like a brave good man, until he was fifty-three years old; and then, having reigned thirty years, he died. He died in the year nine hundred and one; but, long ago as that is, his fame, and the love and gratitude with which his subjects regarded him, are freshly remembered to the present hour.

The underlined word “labors” most nearly means

Possible Answers:

efforts

conversations

mistakes

feelings

failures

Correct answer:

efforts

Explanation:

In context, the author says that “King Alfred never rested from his labors to improve his people.” The word “labors” means work, projects, or efforts. If you did not know this, it would be necessary to consider what the author says after this excerpt. He describes how Alfred “loved to talk with clever men and travelers from foreign countries and to write down what they told him" and how Alfred "had studied Latin after learning to read English." These all sound like things that one has to work at or put effort into. To provide further help, a “conversation” is a casual instance of two or more people talking with one another.

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