ISEE Lower Level Reading : Identifying and Analyzing Details in Literature Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #111 : Literature Passages

Adapted from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900)

Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor and a roof, which made one room; and this room contained a rusty looking cookstove, a cupboard for the dishes, a table, three or four chairs, and the beds. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em had a big bed in one corner, and Dorothy a little bed in another corner. There was no garret at all, and no cellar—except a small hole dug in the ground, called a cyclone cellar, where the family could go in case one of those great whirlwinds arose, mighty enough to crush any building in its path. It was reached by a trap door in the middle of the floor, from which a ladder led down into the small, dark hole.

When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.

When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child's laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy's merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.

Uncle Henry never laughed. He worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray also, from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke.

It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings. Toto was not gray; he was a little black dog, with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose. Toto played all day long, and Dorothy played with him, and loved him dearly.

Today, however, they were not playing. Uncle Henry sat upon the doorstep and looked anxiously at the sky, which was even grayer than usual. Dorothy stood in the door with Toto in her arms, and looked at the sky too. Aunt Em was washing the dishes.

Aunt Em's and Uncle Henry's house contains __________.

Possible Answers:

A porch

A fireplace and chimney

A cyclone cellar

A bathroom

Three floors

Correct answer:

A cyclone cellar

Explanation:

Aunt Em's and Uncle Henry's house is described in the first paragraph, and of the things mentioned in the answer choices, the house only contains "a cyclone cellar," so this is the correct answer.

Example Question #1 : Literature Passages

Adapted from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900)

Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor and a roof, which made one room; and this room contained a rusty looking cookstove, a cupboard for the dishes, a table, three or four chairs, and the beds. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em had a big bed in one corner, and Dorothy a little bed in another corner. There was no garret at all, and no cellar—except a small hole dug in the ground, called a cyclone cellar, where the family could go in case one of those great whirlwinds arose, mighty enough to crush any building in its path. It was reached by a trap door in the middle of the floor, from which a ladder led down into the small, dark hole.

When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.

When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child's laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy's merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.

Uncle Henry never laughed. He worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray also, from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke.

It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings. Toto was not gray; he was a little black dog, with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose. Toto played all day long, and Dorothy played with him, and loved him dearly.

Today, however, they were not playing. Uncle Henry sat upon the doorstep and looked anxiously at the sky, which was even grayer than usual. Dorothy stood in the door with Toto in her arms, and looked at the sky too. Aunt Em was washing the dishes.

Toto could best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

feral

playful

aloof

ferocious

gigantic

Correct answer:

playful

Explanation:

Toto is described in the passage's fifth paragraph: "Toto was not gray; he was a little black dog, with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose. Toto played all day long, and Dorothy played with him, and loved him dearly." Based on this description, we can pick out "playful" as the correct answer, as Toto "played all day long." Nothing in the passage suggests that Toto is "ferocious" (dangerous), "aloof" (cold and unfriendly), "feral" (semi-wild), and we are told that Toto is "a little black dog," so ti wouldn't be correct to call him "gigantic" (enormous).

Example Question #21 : Literal Comprehension

Adapted from The Fight at the Pass of Thermopylæ by Charlotte M. Yonge (1876)

The troops sent for this purpose were from different cities, and amounted to about 4,000 who were to keep the pass against two millions. The leader of them was Leonidas, who had newly become one of the two kings of Sparta, the city that above all in Greece trained its sons to be hardy soldiers, dreading death infinitely less than shame. Leonidas had already made up his mind that the expedition would probably be his death, perhaps because a prophecy had been given at the Temple at Delphi that Sparta should be saved by the death of one of her kings of the race of Hercules. He was allowed by law to take with him 300 men, and these he chose most carefully, not merely for their strength and valor, but selecting those who had sons, so that no family might be altogether destroyed. These Spartans, with their helots or slaves, made up his own share of the numbers, but all the army was under his generalship. It is even said that the 300 celebrated their own funeral rites before they set out lest they should be deprived of them by the enemy, since, as we have already seen, it was the Greek belief that the spirits of the dead found no rest till their obsequies had been performed. Such preparations did not daunt the spirits of Leonidas and his men, and his wife, Gorgo, not a woman to be faint-hearted or hold him back. Long before, when she was a very little girl, a word of hers had saved her father from listening to a traitorous message from the King of Persia; and every Spartan lady was bred up to be able to say to those she best loved that they must come home from battle "with the shield or carried upon it."

Why did Leonidas think he was going to die defending Sparta?

Possible Answers:

He had learned that the other king of Sparta was planning to kill him during the battle.

His wife demanded that he die for his country.

It had been foretold in a prophecy.

He was a terrible fighter.

All the Kings of Sparta died on the battlefield.

Correct answer:

It had been foretold in a prophecy.

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “Leonidas had already made up his mind that the expedition would probably be his death, perhaps because a prophecy had been given at the Temple at Delphi that Sparta should be saved by the death of one of her kings of the race of Hercules.” Leonidas thus believes he is likely to die because it has been foretold in a prophecy. 

Example Question #71 : Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well-dressed, too—well-dressed on a weekday. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

Which of the following best describes the setting in which this passage takes place?

Possible Answers:

A big city on an evening in the summer

A small town on an evening in the autumn

A small town in the morning in the winter

A small town on an evening in the summer

A big city in the morning in the autumn

Correct answer:

A small town on an evening in the summer

Explanation:

At the beginning of the second paragraph, the passage states, “The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet.” From this information, we can infer that the passage takes place on an evening in the summer. This allows us to narrow down our answer choices to "A big city on an evening in the summer” and “A small town on an evening in the summer.” The rest of the passage’s second paragraph allows us to infer that the passage takes place in a small town, not a big city, when it says, “A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg.” So, the correct answer is “A small town on an evening in the summer.”

Example Question #11 : Locating Details In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it—it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.

The way Dinah washed her children's faces was this: first she held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose: and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

'Oh, you wicked little thing!' cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. 'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage—and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn't get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help, if it might.

The characters mentioned in the passage are __________.

Possible Answers:

Alice, Alice’s sister Dinah, a white kitten, and a black kitten

Alice, Dinah, a white kitten, and a black kitten

Alice, Dinah, and a black kitten

A white kitten, a black kitten, and Dinah

Alice, the old cat, Dinah, a white kitten, and a black kitten

Correct answer:

Alice, Dinah, a white kitten, and a black kitten

Explanation:

There are four characters in the passage: the white kitten and black kitten are mentioned in its first line, Dinah is mentioned in the first sentence of the second paragraph, and Alice is mentioned in the first line of the third paragraph. A sister of Alice’s is never mentioned, and “the old cat” refers to Dinah; one can infer this from the way the first paragraph says, “For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour,” and the second paragraph describes Dinah washing the white kitten. More evidence of this appears in the third paragraph when it states, “'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' [Alice] added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage.”

Example Question #21 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (1879 Kingston ed.)

Thus talking, we pushed on until we came to a pleasant grove which stretched down to the water's edge. Here, we halted to rest, seating ourselves under a large tree, by a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us. A thousand gaily-plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them. 

My son suddenly started up.

"A monkey," he exclaimed. “I am nearly sure I saw a monkey." 

As he spoke, he sprang round to the other side of the tree, and in doing so, stumbled over a small round object. He handed it to me, remarking as he did so that it was a round bird's nest, of which he had often heard. "You may have done so," said I, laughing, "but this is a coconut."

We split open the nut, but, to our disgust, found the kernel dry and uneatable. 

"Hullo," cried Fritz, "I always thought a coconut was full of delicious sweet liquid, like almond milk."

"So it is," I replied, "when young and fresh, but as it ripens the milk becomes congealed, and in course of time is solidified into a kernel. This kernel then dries as you see here, but when the nut falls on favorable soil, the germ within the kernel swells until it bursts through the shell, and, taking root, springs up a new tree."

"I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already."

"Nature provides for all things," I answered, taking up the pieces. " Look here, do you see these three round holes near the stalk? It is through them that the germ obtains egress. Now let us find a good nut if we can." 

As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree, it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up. When we succeeded, however, we were so refreshed by the fruit that we could defer eating until later in the day, and so spare our stock of provisions.

The narrator is Fritz’s __________.

Possible Answers:

servant

boss

father

brother

shipmate

Correct answer:

father

Explanation:

We can tell that the narrator is Fritz’s father because in the second paragraph, he refers to Fritz as “my son” in the transition between the last line of the first paragraph, “A thousand gaily plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them," and the first line of the second paragraph, "My son suddenly started up.”

Example Question #11 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (1879 Kingston ed.)

Thus talking, we pushed on until we came to a pleasant grove which stretched down to the water's edge. Here, we halted to rest, seating ourselves under a large tree, by a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us. A thousand gaily-plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them. 

My son suddenly started up.

"A monkey," he exclaimed. “I am nearly sure I saw a monkey." 

As he spoke, he sprang round to the other side of the tree, and in doing so, stumbled over a small round object. He handed it to me, remarking as he did so that it was a round bird's nest, of which he had often heard. "You may have done so," said I, laughing, "but this is a coconut."

We split open the nut, but, to our disgust, found the kernel dry and uneatable. 

"Hullo," cried Fritz, "I always thought a coconut was full of delicious sweet liquid, like almond milk."

"So it is," I replied, "when young and fresh, but as it ripens the milk becomes congealed, and in course of time is solidified into a kernel. This kernel then dries as you see here, but when the nut falls on favorable soil, the germ within the kernel swells until it bursts through the shell, and, taking root, springs up a new tree."

"I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already."

"Nature provides for all things," I answered, taking up the pieces. " Look here, do you see these three round holes near the stalk? It is through them that the germ obtains egress. Now let us find a good nut if we can." 

As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree, it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up. When we succeeded, however, we were so refreshed by the fruit that we could defer eating until later in the day, and so spare our stock of provisions.

This passage takes place __________.

Possible Answers:

on a mountaintop

on a ship

in the tropics

in a desert

in the Arctic

Correct answer:

in the tropics

Explanation:

The first two paragraphs of the passage can help you figure out the answer to this question. In the first paragraph, the narrator describes sitting by “a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us.” A “rivulet” is a small river or stream, so we can infer that the passage cannot take place “in a desert” or “in the Arctic”; it also is not likely to take place “on a mountaintop” since they are right next to the ocean, and since the passage clearly takes place on land, “on a ship” cannot be the correct answer either. The second paragraph describes how the narrator and Fritz see colorful birds, and how Fritz thinks he sees a monkey, yielding further support to the correct answer: “in the tropics.” Coconut, colorful birds, and monkeys would all be things one could expect to encounter in the tropics.

Example Question #11 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (1879 Kingston ed.)

Thus talking, we pushed on until we came to a pleasant grove which stretched down to the water's edge. Here, we halted to rest, seating ourselves under a large tree, by a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us. A thousand gaily-plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them. 

My son suddenly started up.

"A monkey," he exclaimed. “I am nearly sure I saw a monkey." 

As he spoke, he sprang round to the other side of the tree, and in doing so, stumbled over a small round object. He handed it to me, remarking as he did so that it was a round bird's nest, of which he had often heard. "You may have done so," said I, laughing, "but this is a coconut."

We split open the nut, but, to our disgust, found the kernel dry and uneatable. 

"Hullo," cried Fritz, "I always thought a coconut was full of delicious sweet liquid, like almond milk."

"So it is," I replied, "when young and fresh, but as it ripens the milk becomes congealed, and in course of time is solidified into a kernel. This kernel then dries as you see here, but when the nut falls on favorable soil, the germ within the kernel swells until it bursts through the shell, and, taking root, springs up a new tree."

"I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already."

"Nature provides for all things," I answered, taking up the pieces. " Look here, do you see these three round holes near the stalk? It is through them that the germ obtains egress. Now let us find a good nut if we can." 

As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree, it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up. When we succeeded, however, we were so refreshed by the fruit that we could defer eating until later in the day, and so spare our stock of provisions.

Fritz finds the first coconut he encounters __________.

Possible Answers:

hanging on one of the palm trees

being carried away by a large bird, which then drops it

in a tree, held by a monkey, which then drops it

floating in the ocean when he goes swimming

by tripping over it

Correct answer:

by tripping over it

Explanation:

Fritz first encounters a coconut in the passage in its third paragraph, which says, “As he spoke, he sprang round to the other side of the tree, and in doing so, stumbled over a small round object. He handed it to me, remarking as he did so that it was a round bird's nest, of which he had often heard.” At the start of the next paragraph, the narrator identifies this object not as a round bird’s nest, but as a coconut. So, Fritz finds the first coconut he encounters by tripping over it. None of the other answer choices are supported by the passage.

Example Question #121 : Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Bat, the Birds, and the Beasts" by Aesop (trans. Jacobs 1909)

A great conflict was about to take place between the Birds and the Beasts. When the two armies were gathered together, the Bat hesitated which to join. The Birds that passed his perch said "Come with us," but he said to them, "I am a Beast."

Later on, some Beasts who were passing underneath him looked up and said "Come with us," but he said, "I am a Bird." Luckily at the last moment peace was made, and no battle took place, so the Bat came to the Birds and wished to join in the celebrations, but they all turned against him and he had to fly away. He then went to the Beasts, but soon had to run away, or else they would have torn him to pieces. "Ah," said the Bat, "I see now: he that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends."

Why does the bat refuse to side with either the birds or the beasts?

Possible Answers:

The bat is a coward.

The bat is a beast.

The bat is a bird.

The bat feels he is a member of both groups. 

The bat does not know how to fight.

Correct answer:

The bat feels he is a member of both groups. 

Explanation:

The bat refuses to fight with either the birds or the beasts because he feels he is a member of both groups. When the birds ask for his assistance, the bat says "I am a Beast," and when the beasts ask for his help, the bat says "I am a Bird."

Example Question #2 : How To Locate And Analyze Details In Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Luckiest Girl in the School by Angela Brazil (1916)

December and January were scarcely good months for taking pictures, but Winona attempted some time exposures, with varying results. It was difficult to make the children realize the necessity of keeping absolutely still, and they ruined several of her pictures by grinning or moving. She secured quite a nice photo of the house, however, and several of the village, and promised herself better luck with family portraits when the summer came round again. She turned a large cupboard in the attic into her dark-room, and spent many hours experimenting with chemicals. She had urgent offers of help, but rejected them steadfastly, greatly to the disappointment of her would-be assistants. In the summer she meant to try all kinds of experiments. She had visions of rigging up a shelter made of leaves and branches, and taking a series of magnificent snap-shots of wild birds and animals, and she certainly intended to secure records of the sports at school. In the meantime she must content herself with landscape and still life.

How did the children ruin several of Winona’s pictures?

Possible Answers:

By moving and grinning 

By refusing to pose

By keeping totally still

By telling jokes

By dancing around

Correct answer:

By moving and grinning 

Explanation:

According to the author the children ruined several of Winona’s pictures “by grinning or moving.” Winona wanted the children to keep absolutely still. 

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