ISEE Lower Level Reading : Making Inferences and Predictions 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 #22 : Making Inferences In 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.

What can we infer happened to Tom just before this passage begins?

Possible Answers:

Something good—he climbed a tree, from the top of which he could see the entire town

Something bad—he got into an argument with a friend

Something good but ambiguous

Something bad but ambiguous

Something bad—one of his friends pushed him into the river

Correct answer:

Something bad but ambiguous

Explanation:

The passage begins with the lines, "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." Based on this introduction, we can infer that something bad just happened to Tom, because it left him with "troubles," even thouhg he forgot about those troubles within two minutes. The passage doesn't tell us exactly what caused Tom to have troubles, just merely that he did. So, the best answer choice is "Something bad but ambiguous."

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Plot And Setting

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.

Where in Alice’s house can we infer this passage takes place?

Possible Answers:

The cellar

The garden

The living room

The dining-room

The kitchen

Correct answer:

The living room

Explanation:

Considering the furniture mentioned in this passage can help you figure out the correct answer. Alice falls asleep in “a corner of the great arm-chair,” and later, the unwound ball of worsted is described in the clause “and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles.” So, we need to pick out a room in which one is likely to find an armchair and a hearth-rug. (A “hearth” is another word for a fireplace, so a hearth-rug is a rug one puts in front of the fireplace.) Given this evidence, only one answer choice makes sense: the living room.

Example Question #12 : Making Inferences And Predictions 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 last paragraph allows readers to infer that the narrator and Fritz __________.

Possible Answers:

own a coconut farm

have a limited supply of food

are vegetarians

are on vacation

are lost in a desert, far from water

Correct answer:

have a limited supply of food

Explanation:

In the last paragraph, as the narrator describes how he and Fritz ate the coconut, saying, “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’s saying that they could “spare [their] stock of provisions,” means that he and Fritz must have a limited supply of food, since “provisions” means food taken on an extended trip where no more will be available and implies that they only have a certain amount of food with them. None of the other answer choices are supported by the passage. 

Example Question #41 : Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo" in Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (1902)

Not always was the Kangaroo as now we do behold him, but a Different Animal with four short legs. He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on an outcrop in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Little God Nqa.

He went to Nqa at six before breakfast, saying, “Make me different from all other animals by five this afternoon.”

Up jumped Nqa from his seat on the sand flat and shouted, “Go away!”

He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a rock-ledge in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Middle God Nquing.

He went to Nquing at eight after breakfast, saying, “Make me different from all other animals; make me, also, wonderfully popular by five this afternoon.”

Up jumped Nquing from his burrow in the spinifex and shouted, “Go away!”

He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a sandbank in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Big God Nqong.

He went to Nqong at ten before dinner-time, saying, “Make me different from all other animals; make me popular and wonderfully run after by five this afternoon.”

Up jumped Nqong from his bath in the salt-pan and shouted, “Yes, I will!”

Nqong called Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, dusty in the sunshine, and showed him Kangaroo. Nqong said, “Dingo! Wake up, Dingo! Do you see that gentleman dancing on an ashpit? He wants to be popular and very truly run after. Dingo, make him SO!”

Up jumped Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—and said, "What, that cat-rabbit?"

Off ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a coal-scuttle—ran after Kangaroo.

Off went the proud Kangaroo on his four little legs like a bunny.

This, O Beloved of mine, ends the first part of the tale!

He ran through the desert; he ran through the mountains; he ran through the salt-pans; he ran through the reed-beds; he ran through the blue gums; he ran through the spinifex; he ran till his front legs ached.

He had to!

Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a rat-trap, never getting nearer, never getting farther—ran after Kangaroo.

He had to!

Still ran Kangaroo—Old Man Kangaroo. He ran through the ti-trees; he ran through the mulga; he ran through the long grass; he ran through the short grass; he ran through the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer; he ran till his hind legs ached.

He had to!

Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—hungrier and hungrier, grinning like a horse-collar, never getting nearer, never getting farther; and they came to the Wollgong River.

Now, there wasn't any bridge, and there wasn't any ferry-boat, and Kangaroo didn't know how to get over; so he stood on his legs and hopped.

He had to!

What piece of information do we know about both the Kangaroo and the Dingo from the passage?

Possible Answers:

They both hate each other.

They are both hungry all the time.

They both want to be different.

They both run at the same speed.

They both listen to the gods.

Correct answer:

They both run at the same speed.

Explanation:

In order to answer this question, you have to both read in detail and think laterally about what the information you read tells you. None of these answers are directly stated. We know that the animals both run at the same speed, as the passage tells us, “Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a rat-trap, never getting nearer, never getting farther—ran after Kangaroo.” As neither animal gets closer or further away from the other at any time while they are both running, we can assume that they both run at the same constant speed.

Example Question #42 : Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo" in Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (1902)

Not always was the Kangaroo as now we do behold him, but a Different Animal with four short legs. He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on an outcrop in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Little God Nqa.

He went to Nqa at six before breakfast, saying, “Make me different from all other animals by five this afternoon.”

Up jumped Nqa from his seat on the sand flat and shouted, “Go away!”

He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a rock-ledge in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Middle God Nquing.

He went to Nquing at eight after breakfast, saying, “Make me different from all other animals; make me, also, wonderfully popular by five this afternoon.”

Up jumped Nquing from his burrow in the spinifex and shouted, “Go away!”

He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a sandbank in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Big God Nqong.

He went to Nqong at ten before dinner-time, saying, “Make me different from all other animals; make me popular and wonderfully run after by five this afternoon.”

Up jumped Nqong from his bath in the salt-pan and shouted, “Yes, I will!”

Nqong called Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, dusty in the sunshine, and showed him Kangaroo. Nqong said, “Dingo! Wake up, Dingo! Do you see that gentleman dancing on an ashpit? He wants to be popular and very truly run after. Dingo, make him SO!”

Up jumped Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—and said, "What, that cat-rabbit?"

Off ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a coal-scuttle—ran after Kangaroo.

Off went the proud Kangaroo on his four little legs like a bunny.

This, O Beloved of mine, ends the first part of the tale!

He ran through the desert; he ran through the mountains; he ran through the salt-pans; he ran through the reed-beds; he ran through the blue gums; he ran through the spinifex; he ran till his front legs ached.

He had to!

Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a rat-trap, never getting nearer, never getting farther—ran after Kangaroo.

He had to!

Still ran Kangaroo—Old Man Kangaroo. He ran through the ti-trees; he ran through the mulga; he ran through the long grass; he ran through the short grass; he ran through the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer; he ran till his hind legs ached.

He had to!

Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—hungrier and hungrier, grinning like a horse-collar, never getting nearer, never getting farther; and they came to the Wollgong River.

Now, there wasn't any bridge, and there wasn't any ferry-boat, and Kangaroo didn't know how to get over; so he stood on his legs and hopped.

He had to!

What can we learn about a horse-collar from the passage?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers are correct.

It will fit around a Dingo's neck.

It can be used to catch a Kangaroo.

It is something that can only be found in Australia.

It is large. 

Correct answer:

It is large. 

Explanation:

In order to answer this question, you need to make inferences from the detail you are provided by the author. We know from the passage that the Dingo has a large mouth, as it is like a “coal-scuttle,” so we can guess that a horse-collar is large. We can also guess this as the Dingo's grin is probably getting bigger and bigger as he thinks about catching the Kangaroo.

Example Question #41 : 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.

A tornado strikes Kansas later in the story from which this passage is taken. Which paragraph can be read as foreshadowing this event?

Possible Answers:

The fourth paragraph

The second paragraph

The third paragraph

The fifth paragraph

The first paragraph

Correct answer:

The first paragraph

Explanation:

The first paragraph contains foreshadowing about the tornado that strikes Kansas later in the story. It points out how Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's house has 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." Given that the house has safety precautions to defend its inhabitants against tornadoes, one can infer that tornadoes strike Kansas relatively often, and that a tornado might potentially strike Kansas later in the story.

Example Question #5 : How To Make Inferences Based On 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.

Based on this whole passage, which of these months can you infer would be best for Winona’s photography?

Possible Answers:

January 

October 

December

June 

March 

Correct answer:

June 

Explanation:

The author suggests that winter is a worse time for taking pictures than the summer. June is the only one of these five months that is a summer month, so it can be reasonably inferred that Winona could capture the best photography in June.

Example Question #11 : Making Inferences And Predictions 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."

Who is referred to as “King of Beasts"?

Possible Answers:

The Jackal 

The Lion

The Wolf

The Fox

The Stag

Correct answer:

The Lion

Explanation:

You have probably heard a lion referred to as “King of the Jungle” before. Throughout literature, lions are often associated with royalty or primacy. In this story, the phrase “King of Beasts” appears during the lion’s own description of how to divide the meat. The lion is talking about himself as “King of Beasts.”

Example Question #71 : Prose 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."

Why does the lion think he can easily claim the fourth piece of meat?

Possible Answers:

He contributed most to the chase.

It his right as “King of Beasts.”

The other animals are not hungry. 

The other animals cannot stop him. 

The Wolf owes him.

Correct answer:

The other animals cannot stop him. 

Explanation:

The lion lists reasons for why he should receive each portion of meat. His reason for claiming the fourth piece is expressed as “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.”

Example Question #9 : How To Make Inferences Based On Fiction 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.”

From the whole of this story, what can you infer about the mouse?

Possible Answers:

He is not really a mouse. 

He is regal. 

He is big. 

He is calm. 

He is loyal.

Correct answer:

He is loyal.

Explanation:

Because the mouse promises to help the lion and then actually follows through with that promise by saving the lion’s life, it can be inferred that the mouse is loyal. To help you, "regal" means associated with royalty.

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