ISEE Middle Level Reading : Contemporary Life Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Passage Logic, Genre, And Organization In Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from "Errors in Our Food Economy" in Scientific American Supplement No. 1082 Vol. XLII (September 26th, 1896)

Scientific research, interpreting the observations of practical life, implies that several errors are common in the use of food.

First, many people purchase needlessly expensive kinds of food, doing this under the false impression that there is some peculiar virtue in the costlier materials, and that economy in our diet is somehow detrimental to our dignity or our welfare. And, unfortunately, those who are most extravagant in this respect are often the ones who can least afford it.

Secondly, the food which we eat does not always contain the proper proportions of the different kinds of nutritive ingredients. We consume relatively too much of the fuel ingredients of food, such as the fats of meat and butter, and the starch which makes up the larger part of the nutritive material of flour, potatoes, sugar, and sweetmeats. Conversely, we have relatively too little of the protein of flesh-forming substances, like the lean of meat and fish and the gluten of wheat, which make muscle and sinew and which are the basis of blood, bone and brain.

Thirdly, many people, not only the well-to-do, but those in moderate circumstances, use needless quantities of food. Part of the excess, however, is simply thrown away with the wastes of the table and the kitchen; so that the injury to health, great as it may be, is doubtless much less than if all were eaten. Probably the worst sufferers from this evil are well-to-do people of sedentary occupations.

Finally, we are guilty of serious errors in our cooking. We waste a great deal of fuel in the preparation of our food, and even then a great deal of the food is very badly cooked. A reform in these methods of cooking is one of the economic demands of our time.

In the first sentence of the passage, the author is primarily __________.

Possible Answers:

contesting a commonly held opinion about the scarcity of food resources

mourning the loss of scientific documents about the topic under discussion in recent years

lamenting the lack of scientific research that has been done on people’s eating habits

highlighting the need for additional scientific inquiry into the topic under discussion

establishing that what follows is based on scientific observation

Correct answer:

establishing that what follows is based on scientific observation

Explanation:

The first sentence of this passage reads as follows: “Scientific research, interpreting the observations of practical life, implies that several errors are common in the use of food.” The author wants his audience to understand that the argument he is making is based on “scientific observation.” He does this so as to lend extra credibility to his argument. There is no indication that he is “lamenting” or “mourning” anything, nor that he is arguing against a commonly held opinion or highlighting a need for additional research.

Example Question #3 : Analyzing Passage Logic, Genre, And Organization In Contemporary Life Passages

"Addictions" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

Addictions come in many forms, often quite hidden from those who should be aware of them. It is helpful to be aware of how hidden these obsessive behaviors can be. Often, they appear to be harmless, but this appearance is deceptive.  Perhaps several examples can assist in increasing the reader’s awareness of these potentially problematic habits. 

A very simple example of such an apparently innocuous addiction is the addiction that many people have to a beverage like coffee. While not as destructive as an addiction to alcohol, an extreme need for caffeine often covers a need for more sleep or an overzealous desire to be completely energetic at every waking moment. Also, a great deal of caffeine can potentially do damage to one’s heart due to the stress caused by its stimulating effects. 

Another example of a seemingly harmless addiction can be found in the case of people who are addicted to work. It is very tempting to praise such obsessive behavior, as it provides many benefits for others and even for the one doing the work. The advancement of a career certainly seems beneficial and often allows for great personal and financial fulfillment. Nevertheless, constant work often hides some sadness, insecurity, or fear that should be confronted by the person who slaves away without cessation. Likewise, over time, such continuous work often can be greatly destructive of important personal relationships.

Of course, many more examples could be brought forth, for one can obsess over almost anything. Still, even these two simple examples should make clear to the reader that it is possible for there to be apparently harmless—indeed, seemingly helpful—life practices that in reality can pose a potential harm to one’s physical or mental well-being.

 

What is the purpose of the second and third paragraphs?

Possible Answers:

To provide specific examples of addictions that appear to be harmless at first glance

To explain how deceptive addictions hide their harmfulness

To provide examples of several addictions that ultimately are not harmful

To provide examples of several extremely harmful addictions

To explain the meaning of the notion of "harmless addictions"

Correct answer:

To provide specific examples of addictions that appear to be harmless at first glance

Explanation:

The beginnings of these paragraphs' sentences express their purpose very well:

(1) "A very simple example of such an apparently innocuous addiction . . ."

(2) "Another example of a seemingly harmless addiction . . ."

The key words are "apparently innocuous" and "seemingly harmless."  These show that the addictions being enumerated appear harmless (though they actually are). This was also implied in the opening paragraph.

Example Question #125 : Language In Humanities Passages

Adapted from The Spoiled Children of Civilization (1912) by Samuel McChord Crothers

To spoil a child is no easy task, for Nature is all the time working on behalf of the childish virtues and veracities, and is gently correcting the abnormalities of education. Still it can be done. The secret of it is never to let the child alone, and to insist on doing for him all that he would otherwise do for himself—and more.

In that "more" is the spoiling power. The child must be early made acquainted with the feeling of satiety. There must be too much of everything. If he were left to himself to any extent, this would be an unknown experience. For he is a hungry little creature, with a growing appetite, and naturally is busy ministering to his own needs. He is always doing something for himself, and enjoys the exercise. The little egoist, even when he has "no language but a cry," uses that language to make known to the world that he wants something and wants it very much. As his wants increase, his exertions increase also. Arms and legs, fingers and toes, muscles and nerves and busy brain are all at work to get something which he desires. He is a mechanic fashioning his little world to his own uses. He is a despot who insists on his divine right to rule the subservient creatures around him. He is an inventor devising ways and means to secure all the ends which he has the wit to see. That these great works on which he has set his heart end in self is obvious enough, but we forgive him. Altruism will come in its own time if we can train ourselves.

What does the author most likely mean when he describes the child as having “no language but a cry?”

Possible Answers:

Language is necessary to communicate needs

To raise virtuous children it is necessary to discipline them

That the parents do not listen to their child

That the child is an infant

That the child refuses to speak

Correct answer:

That the child is an infant

Explanation:

By describing the child as “having no language but a cry” the author is describing how even an infant child is able to communicate his wants and needs through crying. The “little egoist” is used to convey an image of infant nature. Another clue to the solution of this problem can be found in the succeeding sentence where the author says “as his wants increase . . .” this should demonstrate that he is growing from something little. 

Example Question #71 : Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from Scientific American Supplement No. 1178 Vol. XLV (June 25th, 1898)

In the present war between the United States and Spain, the Queen Regent is an impressive figure, and it is entirely owing to her charm and fortitude that the present dynasty of Spain is maintained. Since his earliest youth, she has constantly made efforts to fit her son to wear the crown. The Queen Regent came from the great historic house of Hapsburg, which has done much to shape the destinies of the world. All the fortitude that has distinguished its members is represented in this lady, who is the widow of Alfonzo XII and the mother of the present king. Her father was the late Archduke Karl Ferdinand and she is the cousin of Emperor Franz Joseph. She has had a sad history. Her husband died before the young king was born, and from the hour of his birth she has watched and cared for the boy.

She is the leader in all good works in Spain, and her sympathy for the distressed is proverbial. She gives freely from her private purse wherever there is need, whether it be for the relief of misery or, as recently, when the state is in peril. The young king has been carefully educated. By a curious fate, his birth deposed from the throne his sister Maria de las Mercedes, who as a little girl was queen for a few months. The boy has been brought up under the influence of family life and has a warm affection for his mother and sisters. He has never had the full delights of childhood, for he has been educated in that false, punctilious, and thoroughly artificial atmosphere of the court of Spain, in which every care has been taken to fit him for his royal position. His health is far from robust, though the military education he has received has done much to strengthen his constitution. He has been taught to interest himself especially in the naval and military affairs, and the study of the models of ships and military discipline has been one of the principal occupations of his childhood. It is the earnest wish of Spain that he should prove worthy of his mother.

The author’s attitude towards the Queen Regent is __________.

Possible Answers:

reverential

disgusted

apathetic

approving

intolerant

Correct answer:

reverential

Explanation:

The author’s attitude towards the Queen Regent could best be described as deeply respectful, so the correct answer is “reverential,” which has this meaning. That the author holds the Queen Regent in deep respect can be seen in excerpts like "It is the earnest wish of Spain that [the Queen's son] should prove worthy of his mother" and, "In the present war between the United States and Spain, the Queen Regent is an impressive figure, and it is entirely owing to her charm and fortitude that the present dynasty of Spain is maintained." To provide further help, “apathetic” means not caring.

Example Question #72 : Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from Scientific American Supplement No. 1178 Vol. XLV (June 25th, 1898)

In the present war between the United States and Spain, the Queen Regent is an impressive figure, and it is entirely owing to her charm and fortitude that the present dynasty of Spain is maintained. Since his earliest youth, she has constantly made efforts to fit her son to wear the crown. The Queen Regent came from the great historic house of Hapsburg, which has done much to shape the destinies of the world. All the fortitude that has distinguished its members is represented in this lady, who is the widow of Alfonzo XII and the mother of the present king. Her father was the late Archduke Karl Ferdinand and she is the cousin of Emperor Franz Joseph. She has had a sad history. Her husband died before the young king was born, and from the hour of his birth she has watched and cared for the boy.

She is the leader in all good works in Spain, and her sympathy for the distressed is proverbial. She gives freely from her private purse wherever there is need, whether it be for the relief of misery or, as recently, when the state is in peril. The young king has been carefully educated. By a curious fate, his birth deposed from the throne his sister Maria de las Mercedes, who as a little girl was queen for a few months. The boy has been brought up under the influence of family life and has a warm affection for his mother and sisters. He has never had the full delights of childhood, for he has been educated in that false, punctilious, and thoroughly artificial atmosphere of the court of Spain, in which every care has been taken to fit him for his royal position. His health is far from robust, though the military education he has received has done much to strengthen his constitution. He has been taught to interest himself especially in the naval and military affairs, and the study of the models of ships and military discipline has been one of the principal occupations of his childhood. It is the earnest wish of Spain that he should prove worthy of his mother.

The author of this passage demonstrates __________ for the court of Spain.

Possible Answers:

love

distrust

apathy

disdain

admiration

Correct answer:

disdain

Explanation:

Although the author’s attitude towards the Queen Regent is generally very favorable, his attitude towards the court of Spain is almost exactly opposite. The author says, "[the Queen's son] has been educated in that false, punctilious and thoroughly artificial atmosphere of the court of Spain." This suggests the author feels “disdain,” or disapproving dislike, for the court of Spain. To provide further help, “punctilious” means paying careful attention to the wrong details; “apathy” means not caring; and “admiration” means respect and liking.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Tone, Style, And Figurative Language In Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from Scientific American Supplement No. 1157 Vol. XLV (March 5th, 1898)

"Artists" of the variety stage and the circus are always trying to find something new, for the same old trapeze performances, trials of strength, performances of rope dancers, etc., have been presented so many times that anyone who invents an entirely new trick is sure of making a large amount of money out of it; the more wild and dangerous it is, the better. Anything that naturally stands on its feet but can be made to stand on its head will be well received in the latter attitude by the public. Some such thought as this must have been in the mind of the man who conceived the idea of riding a bicycle on the ceiling instead of on the floor. The "trick" originated with the Swiss acrobat Di Batta, who, being too old to undertake such a performance himself, trained two of his pupils to do it, and they appeared with their wheel in Busch Circus in Berlin. The wheel, of course, ran on a track from which it was suspended in such a way that it could not fall, and the man who operated it used the handle bar as he would the cross bar of the trapeze. One would think that the position of the rider was sufficiently dangerous to satisfy any public, but the inventor of the trick sought to make it appear more wonderful by having the rider carry between his teeth a little trapeze from the crosspiece of which another man hung. Different colored lights were thrown on the performers as they rode around the ceiling, and at the end of the performance first one and then the other dropped into the safety net which had been placed about sixty feet below them.

Circus performers are primarily characterized by their ability to __________.

Possible Answers:

manipulate and entertain

shock and surprise

scare and intimidate

annoy and anger

laugh and befriend others

Correct answer:

manipulate and entertain

Explanation:

In this passage, the author highlights how circus performers are able to manipulate and entertain their audiences. This can be seen in excerpts such as “One would think that the position of the rider was sufficiently dangerous to satisfy any public, but the inventor of the trick sought to make it appear more wonderful by having the rider carry between his teeth a little trapeze from the crosspiece off which another man hung.” The inventor of the trick adds additional detail to the trick so as to make it more entertaining; circus performers know how to manipulate their audience into finding something more wild, dangerous, and entertaining.

Example Question #73 : Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from Scientific American Supplement No. 1178 Vol. XLV (June 25th, 1898)

An invention, to be patented, must be applied for by the actual inventor, and in the absence of acts constituting a transfer, the patent, and all legal ownership in it and all rights under it, go exclusively to the inventor. In the absence of express or implied contract, a mere employer of the inventor has no rights under the patent. Only contracts or assignments give to the employer, or to anyone else, a license or a partial or entire ownership in the patent. The equity of this may be appreciated by example. The carpenter invents an improvement in window frames, and the shop owner has no rights. He has no right even to make the patented window frame without license. The shop owner, in merely employing the carpenter, acquires no rights to the carpenter's patented inventions. But there are cases in which an implied license would go to the shop owner. For instance, if the carpenter was employed on the mutual understanding that he was particularly ingenious in devising carpenter work, and capable of improving upon the products of the shop; and if in the course of his work he devised a new and patentable window frame, and developed it in connection with his employment and at the expense of his employer; and if the new frames were made by the employer without protest from the carpenter, the carpenter could, of course, patent the new frame, but he could not oust the employer in his right to continue making the invention, for it would be held that the employer had acquired an implied license.

If he could not use it, then he would not be getting the very advantage for which he employed this particular carpenter, and if he did get that right, he would be getting all that he employed the carpenter for, and that right would not be at all lessened by the fact that the carpenter had a patent under which he could license other people. The patent does not constitute the right to make or use or sell, for such right is enjoyed without a patent. The patent constitutes the "exclusive" right to make, sell or use, and this the shop owner does not get unless he specially bargains for it. Implied licenses stand on delicate ground, and where men employ people of ingenious talent, with the understanding that the results of such talent developed during the employment shall inure to the benefit of the employer, there is only one safeguard, and that is to found the employment on a contract unmistakably setting forth the understanding.

How does the author feel about “implied licenses”?

Possible Answers:

They are not supported by legal weight or authority.

They serve the interests of the employer over the employee.

They favor the employee over the employer.

They are a viable way of ensuring the loyalty of an employee.

They are dangerous and should never be preferred over contractual obligations.

Correct answer:

They are dangerous and should never be preferred over contractual obligations.

Explanation:

The author seems to feel that implied licenses are dangerous and ought to be avoided when they can be. This is most clear when the author ends the second paragraph by stating, “Implied licenses stand on delicate ground . . . there is only one safeguard, and that is to found the employment on a contract unmistakably setting forth the understanding.”

Example Question #4 : Determining Authorial Attitude In Narrative Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Wild Animals in Captivity" by W. A. Atkinson in Chatterbox Periodical (1906, ed. J. Erskine Clark)

Notwithstanding all the care which is now bestowed upon wild animals in our zoological gardens and menageries, nearly all of them suffer a little in some way or other by confinement. When we think of the great difference which exists between the surroundings natural to a free wild animal, and those of even the best zoological gardens, we cannot but be surprised that so many animals from all parts of the world can be kept alive and in good condition in a climate so changeable as ours. Every effort is made by the keepers to copy as far as possible the natural conditions to which each animal is accustomed.

It was usual, for instance, to deprive all the flesh-eating animals of one of the greatest traveling menageries of food during one day in each week. It was found by experience that the animals were healthier when they suffered periods of fasting like this, than they were when they were fed regularly every day without a break. The explanation of this was very simple. These animals, when they were living wild in the jungles, forests, deserts, or ice-fields, obtained all their food by hunting. When game was scarce or difficult to catch, they were compelled to go hungry; and this occurred so often as to be a natural condition to which they were well accustomed. When, therefore, they were placed in cages, and were fed as regularly, though not as frequently as human beings, their health was more or less impaired.

Animals in confinement often undergo slight changes even when no alteration in their appearance or falling-off in health is noticeable. Many of them, for instance, rarely have young ones, and even when they have, the young are seldom as healthy and robust as if born in a wild state. The keepers have frequently the utmost difficulty in rearing animals which are born in menageries and zoological gardens. Yet if these animals were born in their own countries and under natural conditions, they would grow up healthy and strong, without receiving any more care than a kitten receives from its mother.

An incident which occurred in the Zoo not long ago affords a striking illustration of these facts. A wolf had an ordinary family of eight young ones. The keepers, probably thinking that these were too many for the captive wolf to bring up alone, divided the family. Four of them were left with their mother, and four of them were placed in charge of a collie. The dog took kindly to her foster-children, and reared them successfully with her own. This was only what the keepers expected. But when they placed the young ones together again, and compared the collie's family with the wolf's family, they were surprised to find that the four which had been nurtured by the collie were stronger and better animals than their four brothers and sisters. The best explanation of this result is that the collie was living a healthy natural life, while the wolf, though to all appearance quite well, was not enjoying the full vigor which results from a free and active life.

Which of these best captures the author’s attitude towards the success of zoological gardens?

Possible Answers:

Sadness 

Aggression 

Disgust 

Surprise 

Joy 

Correct answer:

Surprise 

Explanation:

The author’s attitude towards the success of zoological gardens is one of surprise. This can be gleaned from an analysis of the types of words the author often employs, like “striking,” “astonishing,” or “surprise.” Or, it can be determined in the following excerpt: “When we think of the great difference which exists between the surroundings natural to a free wild animal, and those of even the best zoological gardens, we cannot but be surprised that so many animals from all parts of the world can be kept alive and in good condition in a climate so changeable as ours.” Finally, it could be inferred from an understanding of the overall argument of the passage and what that might suggest the author would expect of zoological gardens. 

Example Question #1 : Cause And Effect In Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from Scientific American Supplement No. 1082 Vol. XLII (September 26th, 1896)

The rowboat Fox, of the port of New York, manned by George Harbo, thirty-one years of age, captain of a merchantman, and Frank Samuelson, twenty-six years of age, left New York for Havre on the sixth of June. Ten days later the boat was met by the German transatlantic steamer Fürst Bismarck proceeding from Cherbourg to New York. On the eighth, ninth and tenth of July, the Fox was cast by a tempest upon the reefs of Newfoundland. The two men jumped into the sea, and thanks to the watertight compartments provided with air chambers fore and aft, it was possible for them to right the boat; but the unfortunates lost their provisions and their supply of drinking water. On the fifteenth they met the Norwegian three-masted vessel Cito, which supplied them with food and water. The captains of the vessels met with signed the log book and testified that the boat had neither sail nor rudder. The Fox reached the Scilly Islands on the first of August, having at this date been on the ocean fifty-five days. It arrived at Havre on the seventh of August.

Cost what it might, the men were bent upon reaching this port in order to gain the reward promised by Mr. Fox, of the Police Gazette. Thanks to the wind and a favorable current, they made one hundred and twenty-five miles in twenty-four hours. One slept three hours while the other rowed. Their skins and faces were tumefied by the wind, salt water, and sun; the skin of their hands was renewed three times; their legs were weakened; and they were worn out.

Why did the two men want to row across the Atlantic?

Possible Answers:

To impress their wives

To prove that it could be done

To achieve fame

To atone for breaking the law

To claim the promised reward

Correct answer:

To claim the promised reward

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read carefully. The author says, "the men were bent upon reaching this port in order to gain the reward promised by Mr. Fox, of the Police Gazette.”

Example Question #2 : Cause And Effect In Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from "Wild Animals in Captivity" by W. A. Atkinson in Chatterbox Periodical (1906, ed. J. Erskine Clark)

Notwithstanding all the care which is now bestowed upon wild animals in our zoological gardens and menageries, nearly all of them suffer a little in some way or other by confinement. When we think of the great difference which exists between the surroundings natural to a free wild animal, and those of even the best zoological gardens, we cannot but be surprised that so many animals from all parts of the world can be kept alive and in good condition in a climate so changeable as ours. Every effort is made by the keepers to copy as far as possible the natural conditions to which each animal is accustomed.

It was usual, for instance, to deprive all the flesh-eating animals of one of the greatest traveling menageries of food during one day in each week. It was found by experience that the animals were healthier when they suffered periods of fasting like this, than they were when they were fed regularly every day without a break. The explanation of this was very simple. These animals, when they were living wild in the jungles, forests, deserts, or ice-fields, obtained all their food by hunting. When game was scarce or difficult to catch, they were compelled to go hungry; and this occurred so often as to be a natural condition to which they were well accustomed. When, therefore, they were placed in cages, and were fed as regularly, though not as frequently as human beings, their health was more or less impaired.

Animals in confinement often undergo slight changes even when no alteration in their appearance or falling-off in health is noticeable. Many of them, for instance, rarely have young ones, and even when they have, the young are seldom as healthy and robust as if born in a wild state. The keepers have frequently the utmost difficulty in rearing animals which are born in menageries and zoological gardens. Yet if these animals were born in their own countries and under natural conditions, they would grow up healthy and strong, without receiving any more care than a kitten receives from its mother.

An incident which occurred in the Zoo not long ago affords a striking illustration of these facts. A wolf had an ordinary family of eight young ones. The keepers, probably thinking that these were too many for the captive wolf to bring up alone, divided the family. Four of them were left with their mother, and four of them were placed in charge of a collie. The dog took kindly to her foster-children, and reared them successfully with her own. This was only what the keepers expected. But when they placed the young ones together again, and compared the collie's family with the wolf's family, they were surprised to find that the four which had been nurtured by the collie were stronger and better animals than their four brothers and sisters. The best explanation of this result is that the collie was living a healthy natural life, while the wolf, though to all appearance quite well, was not enjoying the full vigor which results from a free and active life.

Why did the dog have greater success raising the wolf pups than the wolf pups' mother?

Possible Answers:

Because the dog had experience raising puppies before, whereas the wolf had never had pups before was totally inexperienced.

Because the dog was helped by the zookeepers and the wolf was left to fend for herself as if she were in the wild.

Because the dog was happy and in her natural environment, whereas the captive wolf was hindered by her captivity.

Because the wolf was too aggressive and food was too scarce to provide a healthy childhood for eight pups.

Because the wolf was sickly and dying and the dog was full of the vigor of life.

Correct answer:

Because the dog was happy and in her natural environment, whereas the captive wolf was hindered by her captivity.

Explanation:

This is another question that relates to the overall argument of the passage. Here, the author is providing anecdotal evidence to support the passage's overall point that animals suffer in perhaps unexpected ways in captivity. In context, the author says, “[the zookeepers] were surprised to find that the four [wolf pups] which had been nurtured by the collie were stronger and better animals than their four brothers and sisters. The best explanation of this result is that the collie was living a healthy natural life, while the wolf, though to all appearance quite well, was not enjoying the full vigor which results from a free and active life.” So, the collie raised healthier puppies because she was living her natural life (being a dog, and genetically accustomed to captivity) whereas the wolf mother raised less healthy puppies because she herself was suffering from the effects of captivity.

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