ISEE Middle Level Reading : Language in History Passages

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

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

1 2 3 4 5 7 Next →

Example Question #1 : Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

The period at which this history commences—the beginning of the sixteenth century—when compared with the ages which had preceded it, since the fall of the Roman empire, was one of unprecedented brilliancy and activity. It was a period very fruitful in great people and great events, and, though stormy and turbulent, was favorable to experiments and reforms. The nations of Europe seem to have been suddenly aroused from a state of torpor and rest, and to have put forth new energies in every department of life. The material and the political, the moral and the social condition of society was subject to powerful agitations, and passed through important changes.

Great discoveries and inventions had been made. The use of movable types, first ascribed to Gutenberg in 1441 and to Peter Schœffer in 1444, changed the whole system of book-making, and vastly increased the circulation of the scriptures, the Greek and Latin classics, and all other valuable works, which, by the industry of the monkish copyist, had been preserved from the ravages of time and barbarism. Gunpowder, whose explosive power had been perceived by Roger Bacon as early as 1280, though it was not used on the field of battle until 1346, had changed the art of war, which had greatly contributed to undermining the feudal system. The polarity of the magnet, also discovered in the middle ages, and not practically applied to the mariner's compass until 1403, had led to the greatest event of the fifteenth century—the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, in 1492. The impulse given to commerce by this and other discoveries of unknown continents and oceans, by the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the Dutch, the English, and the French, cannot be here enlarged on. America revealed to the astonished European its riches in gold and silver; and Indian spices, and silks, and drugs, were imported through new channels. Mercantile wealth, with all its refinements, acquired new importance in the eyes of the nations. The world opened towards the east and the west. The horizon of knowledge extended. Popular delusions were dispelled. Liberality of mind was acquired. The material prosperity of the western nations was increased. Tastes became more refined, and social intercourse more cheerful.

The author’s tone in this passage could best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

pessimistic and grave

remote and aloof

apathetic and lost

optimistic and enthusiastic

nostalgic and wistful

Correct answer:

optimistic and enthusiastic

Explanation:

The author takes on a very positive attitude throughout the whole of this passage towards the developments of the sixteenth century. Certainly nothing he writes could be called “pessimistic,” “grave,” “apathetic,” “remote,” or “aloof.” You might think, seeing as how he is talking about the past in a favorable way, that the tone could best be described as “nostalgic” and “wistful” (both words mean longing to return to an enjoyed past). However, that is not really the manner in which the author is speaking. It is more reasonable to say he is painting the sixteenth century in an “optimistic” and “enthusiastic” light. Take a look at how the text ends to see this clearly: “The world opened towards the east and the west. The horizon of knowledge extended. Popular delusions were dispelled. Liberality of mind was acquired. The material prosperity of the western nations was increased. Tastes became more refined, and social intercourse more cheerful.” Even though the word “optimistic” is usually used to describe a positive feeling about the future, here it is being used to describe how the author views the past in an “optimistic” light, as he is only discussing the best parts of the sixteenth century. To provide further help, “grave” means serious and bad; “apathetic” means not caring; and “remote” and “aloof” mean distant, though "remote" can refer to either being physically distant or emotionally distant, whereas "aloof" means emotionally distant.

Example Question #11 : Analyzing Tone, Style, And Figurative Language In History Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

The great hero of this Swiss movement was Ulric Zwingli, the most interesting of all the reformers. He was born in 1484 and educated amid the mountains of his picturesque country, and, like Erasmus, Reuchlin, Luther, and Melancthon, had no aristocratic claims, except to the nobility of nature. But, though poor, he was well educated, and was a master of the scholastic philosophy and of all the learning of his age. Like Luther, he was passionately fond of music, and played the lute, the harp, the violin, the flute, and the dulcimer. There was no more joyous spirit in all Switzerland than his. Every one loved his society, and honored his attainments, and admired his genius.

Like Luther and Erasmus, he was disgusted with scholasticism, and regretted the time he had devoted to its study. He was ordained in 1506, by the bishop of Constance, and was settled in Zurich in 1518. At first, his life did not differ from that which the clergy generally led, being one of dissipation and pleasure. But he was studious, and became well acquainted with the fathers and with the original Greek. Only gradually did light dawn upon him, and this in consequence of his study of the scriptures, not in consequence of Luther's preaching. He had no tempests to withstand, such as shook the soul of the Saxon monk. Nor had he ever devoted himself with the same ardor to the established church. Nor was he so much interested on doctrinal points of faith. But he saw with equal clearness the corruptions of the church, and preached with equal zeal against indulgences and the usurpations of the popes. The reformation of morals was the great aim of his life. His preaching was practical and simple, and his doctrine was, that "religion consisted in trust in God, loving God, and innocence of life." Moreover, he took a deep interest in the political relations of his country, and was an enthusiast in liberty as well as in religion. To him the town of Zurich was indebted for its emancipation from the episcopal government of Constance, and also for a reformation in all the externals of the church. He inspired the citizens with that spirit of Protestantism that afterwards characterized Calvin and the Puritans. He was too radical a reformer to suit Luther, although he sympathized with most of his theological opinions.

The author’s attitude towards Zwingli could best be described as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Distrust

Loathing

Reverence

Fascination

Derision

Correct answer:

Fascination

Explanation:

The author’s attitude towards Zwingli is clearly not negative, so you should be able to eliminate immediately the answer choices “loathing” (deep hatred), “distrust”, and “derision” (mocking, making fun of). From there, it is a matter of determining whether the author’s tone and attitude is closer to “fascination” (interest) or “reverence” (deep respect). An argument could perhaps be made for either of these answer choices, but the question asks you which best describes the author’s attitude and for that you need direct evidence. The author says “The great hero of this Swiss movement was Ulric Zwingli, the most interesting of all the reformers.” From the author’s numerous mentions of Luther, it is clear he finds all the reformers interesting, and that he describes Zwingli as the “most interesting” suggests his attitude is one of “fascination.”

Example Question #11 : Analyzing Tone, Style, And Figurative Language In History Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

The independence of the Church of England was followed by important consequences, and was the first step to the reformation. But as the first acts of the reformation were prompted by political considerations, the reformers in England, during the reign of Henry VIII, should be considered chiefly in a political point of view. The separation from Rome was not followed by the abolition of the Roman Catholic worship, nor any of the rites and ceremonies of that church. Nor was religious toleration secured. Everything was subservient to the royal conscience, and a secular, instead of an ecclesiastical pope, still reigned in England.

Henry soon found that his new position, as head of the English Church, imposed new duties and cares; he therefore established a separate department for the conduct of ecclesiastical affairs, over which he placed the unscrupulous but energetic Cromwell—a fit minister to such a monarch. A layman who hated the clergy and who looked solely to the pecuniary interests of his master was thus placed over the highest prelates of the church. But Cromwell also had an eye to the political interests of the kingdom. He was a thoughtful and practical man of the world, and was disgusted with the vices of the clergy, and especially with the custom of sending money to Rome. This evil he fixed, which greatly enriched the country, for the popes at this time were extortionate. Cromwell hated the monks. They were lazy, ignorant, and debauched. They were a great burden on the people. Cranmer, who sympathized with the German reformers, hated them on religious grounds, and readily cooperated with Cromwell, while the king, whose extortion and rapacity knew no bounds, listened, with glistening eye, to the suggestions of his two favorite ministers.

The nation was suddenly astounded with the intelligence that parliament had passed a bill giving to the king and his heirs all the monastic establishments in the kingdom. By this spoliation, perhaps called for, but exceedingly unjust and harsh, and in violation of all the rights of property, thousands were reduced to beggary and misery, while there was scarcely an eminent man in the kingdom who did not come in for a share of the plunder. Vast grants of lands were bestowed by the king on his favorite assistants and courtiers, in order to appease the nation; and thus the foundations of many of the great estates of the English nobility were laid.

In the passage, the author primarily uses which of the following to characterize King Henry VIII?

Possible Answers:

His aggressive actions

His timid nature

His overwhelming greed

His religious principles

His love for the kingdom

Correct answer:

His overwhelming greed

Explanation:

Throughout this passage, King Henry VIII is primarily characterized by his greed and desire for personal enrichment and greater power. That the author characterizes him this way may be seen in excerpts such as "the king, whose extortion and rapacity knew no bounds." “Rapacity” means hostile greed, and “extortion” means the gaining of money through the use or threat of force.

Example Question #11 : Analyzing Tone, Style, And Figurative Language In History Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

Spain cannot be said to have been a powerful state until the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, when the crowns of Castile and Aragon were united and when the discoveries of Columbus added a new world to their extensive territories. Nor, during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, was the power of the crown as absolute as during the sway of the Austrian princes. The nobles were animated by a bold and free spirit, and the clergy dared to resist the encroachments of royalty, and even the usurpations of Rome. Charles V succeeded in suppressing the power of the nobles, and all insurrections of the people, and laid the foundation for the power of his gloomy son, Philip II. With Philip commenced the grandeur of the Spanish monarchy. By him, also, were sown the seeds of its subsequent decay. Under him, the inquisition was disgraced by ten thousand enormities, Holland was overrun by the Duke of Alva, and America conquered by Cortes and Pizarro. It was he who built the gorgeous palaces of Spain, and who, with his Invincible Armada, meditated the conquest of England. The wealth of the Indies flowed into the royal treasury, and also enriched all orders and classes. Silver and gold became as plenty at Madrid as in old times at Jerusalem under the reign of Solomon. But Philip was a different prince from Solomon. His talents and attainments were respectable, but he had a jealous and selfish disposition, and exerted all the energies of his mind, and all the resources of his kingdom, to crush the Protestant religion and the liberties of Europe.

Among the first acts of his reign was the effort to extinguish Protestantism in the Netherlands. The opinions of Luther and Calvin made great progress in this country, and Philip, in order to repress them, created new bishops, and established the Inquisition. The people protested, and these protests were considered as rebellious.

At the head of the nobility was William, the Prince of Orange, on whom Philip had conferred the government of Holland, Zealand, Friesland, and Utrecht, provinces of the Netherlands. He was a haughty but resolute and courageous character, and had adopted the opinions of Calvin, for which he lost the confidence of Philip. In the prospect of destruction, he embraced the resolution of delivering his country from the yoke of a merciless and bigoted master. Having reduced the most important garrisons of Holland and Zealand, he was proclaimed stadtholder, and openly threw off his allegiance to Spain. Hostilities, of course, commenced and would rage for several brutal years.

The author’s tone and attitude towards Philip II is primarily one of __________.

Possible Answers:

reverence

suspicion

admiration

disdain

dismissal

Correct answer:

disdain

Explanation:

The author often characterizes Philip II using negative language, as can be seen in examples such as, “In the prospect of destruction, he embraced the resolution of delivering his country from the yoke of a merciless and bigoted master," and “His talents and attainments were respectable, but he had a jealous and selfish disposition." It is also clear that the author sympathizes with Philip’s protestant adversaries. From the combination of these clues, you can reasonably infer that the author’s attitude towards Philip could best be described as “disdain” (great dislike). It is too strong to merely be “dismissal.” To provide further help, “admiration” means the act of looking up to someone or respect, and “reverence” means deep respect.

Example Question #126 : Isee Middle Level (Grades 7 8) Reading Comprehension

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon (1874) by John Lord.

Spain cannot be said to have been a powerful state until the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella; when the crowns of Castile and Aragon were united, and when the discoveries of Columbus added a new world to their extensive territories. Nor, during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, was the power of the crown as absolute as during the sway of the Austrian princes. The nobles were animated by a bold and free spirit, and the clergy dared to resist the encroachments of royalty, and even the usurpations of Rome. Charles V. succeeded in suppressing the power of the nobles, and all insurrections of the people, and laid the foundation for the power of his gloomy son, Philip II. With Philip commenced the grandeur of the Spanish monarchy. By him, also, were sown the seeds of its subsequent decay. Under him, the inquisition was disgraced by ten thousand enormities, Holland was overrun by the Duke of Alva, and America conquered by Cortes and Pizarro. It was he who built the gorgeous palaces of Spain, and who, with his Invincible Armada, meditated the conquest of England. The wealth of the Indies flowed into the royal treasury, and also enriched all orders and classes. Silver and gold became as plenty at Madrid as in old times at Jerusalem under the reign of Solomon. But Philip was a different prince from Solomon. His talents and attainments were respectable, but he had a jealous and selfish disposition, and exerted all the energies of his mind, and all the resources of his kingdom, to crush the Protestant religion and the liberties of Europe.

Among the first acts of his reign was the effort to extinguish Protestantism in the Netherlands. The opinions of Luther and Calvin made great progress in this country, and Philip, in order to repress them, created new bishops, and established the Inquisition. The people protested, and these protests were considered as rebellious.

At the head of the nobility was William, the Prince of Orange, on whom Philip had conferred the government of Holland, Zealand, Friesland, and Utrecht, provinces of the Netherlands. He was a haughty but resolute and courageous character, and had adopted the opinions of Calvin, for which he lost the confidence of Philip. In the prospect of destruction,he embraced the resolution of delivering his country from the yoke of a merciless and bigoted master. Having reduced the most important garrisons of Holland and Zealand, he was proclaimed stadtholder, and openly threw off his allegiance to Spain. Hostilities, of course, commenced and would rage for several brutal years.

It is reasonable to infer that the author’s opinion of Protestantism would be primarily __________.

Possible Answers:

neutral

envious

favorable

mocking

offensive

Correct answer:

favorable

Explanation:

From a close reading of the whole of this passage, it becomes clear that the author is sympathetic to the Protestant cause. His attitude could therefore best be described as “favorable.” Let us quickly examine a few excerpts that support this answer choice. The author says of Philip II, “His talents and attainments were respectable, but he had a jealous and selfish disposition, and exerted all the energies of his mind, and all the resources of his kingdom, to crush the Protestant religion and the liberties of Europe.” In this excerpt, the author associates Protestantism with "the liberties of Europe," indicating he is sympathetic towards Protestantism and associates it with freedom. The author also says, “Among the first acts of his reign was the effort to extinguish Protestantism in the Netherlands. The opinions of Luther and Calvin made great progress in this country, and Philip, in order to repress them, created new bishops, and established the Inquisition. The people protested, and these protests were considered as rebellious.” The author is indicating that he believes these protests in favor of Protestantism should not have been considered rebellious.

Example Question #21 : Argumentative Humanities Passages

"Newton's Mistakes" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

Isaac Newton has often been thought of as the greatest thinker in human history. His insight into the role that gravity plays in existence and physics completely changed our collective understanding of the universe and our place in it. He was understood in his own time as a genius. One famous quote by Alexander Pope (himself quite an intelligent man) demonstrates the deep affection felt for Newton: “Nature, and nature’s mysteries, lay bathed in night, God said 'Let there be Newton,’ and all was light.”

Yet, when the famous economist John Kenneth Galbraith purchased Newton’s journals and diaries at auction, he found to his astonishment, and partial dismay, that more than half of Newton’s work was dedicated to the practice of alchemy—the pursuit of turning ordinary materials into precious metals. Our current understanding of science tells us that this is impossible and that Newton was wasting a significant proportion of his time.

Another famous story about Newton tells of his attempts to figure out the effect of direct exposure to sunlight on the human eye. To carry out this experiment he decided to stare at the sun for as long as humanly possible to see what would happen. The effect, as you might have guessed, was that he very nearly went permanently blind and was indeed completely unable to see for two days.

One might determine from these stories that Newton was not the genius we consider him to be—that he was, in fact, a fool; however, it should tell us something about the nature of genius. It is not merely deep intelligence, but the willingness to try new things and the rejection of the fear of failure. Newton was not a genius in spite of his mistakes, but because of them.

The author’s tone in this passage could best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

funny and dismissive

lighthearted and edifying

eloquent and reserved

abrasive and cold

whimsical and unpredictable

Correct answer:

lighthearted and edifying

Explanation:

The author’s tone is primarily “lighthearted and edifying.” Before we go into detail about why, let us just briefly define all the options here so as to avoid confusion. “Lighthearted” means happy and not focusing on anxiety or worries and “edifying” means giving moral or intellectual instruction, or teaching; “whimsical” means quirky; “eloquent” means well-spoken; “reserved” means shy and not outgoing; “dismissive” means not considering or declaring as unimportant; and “abrasive” means rude, harsh and unpleasant. So, when we say the author’s tone is “lighthearted and edifying,” we mean that it is carefree and aims to teach. An example of the “lighthearted” tone can be seen with the author’s description of Newton’s attempts to test the impact of the sun on human vision: “The effect, as you might have guessed, was that he very nearly went permanently blind and was indeed completely unable to see for two days.” And, an example of the author’s “edifying” tone can be seen in the conclusion where the author attempts to impart some lesson to the reader: “however, it should tell us something about the nature of genius. It is not merely deep intelligence, but the willingness to try new things and the rejection of the fear of failure. Newton was not a genius in spite of his mistakes, but because of them.”

Example Question #11 : Analyzing Tone, Style, And Figurative Language In History Passages

Adapted from The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon (1921)

In all matters of government, the Greek democracy recognised only one class of citizens—the freemen. Every Greek city was composed of a small number of free born citizens, a large number of slaves and a sprinkling of foreigners.

At rare intervals (usually during a war) the Greeks showed themselves willing to confer the rights of citizenship upon the "barbarians," as they called the foreigners, but this was an exception. Citizenship was a matter of birth. You were an Athenian because your father and your grandfather had been Athenians before you. However great your distinction as a trader or a soldier, if you were born of non-Athenian parents, you remained a "foreigner" until the end of time.

The Greek city, therefore, whenever it was not ruled by a king or a tyrant, was run by and for the freemen, and this would not have been possible without a large army of slaves, who outnumbered the free citizens at the rate of six or five to one, and who performed those tasks to which we modern people must devote most of our time and energy if we wish to provide for our families and pay the rent of our apartments. The slaves did all the cooking and baking and candlestick making of the entire city. They were the tailors and the carpenters and the jewelers and the school-teachers and the bookkeepers and they tended the store and looked after the factory while the master went to the public meeting to discuss questions of war and peace, or visited the theatre to see the latest play of Aeschylus or hear a discussion of the revolutionary ideas of Euripides, who had dared to express certain doubts upon the omnipotence of the great god Zeus.

Indeed, ancient Athens resembled a modern club. All the freeborn citizens were hereditary members, and all the slaves were hereditary servants who waited upon the needs of their masters, and it was very pleasant to be a certain member of the organisation.

When we talk about slaves, we do not mean the sort that once existed in the United States. It is true that the position of those slaves who tilled the fields was a very unpleasant one, but the average freeman who had come down in the world and who had been obliged to hire himself out as a farm hand led just as miserable a life. In the cities, furthermore, many of the slaves were more prosperous than the poorer classes of the freemen. For the Greeks, who loved moderation in all things, did not like to treat their slaves after the fashion that afterward was so common in Rome, where a slave had as few rights as an engine in a modern factory and could be thrown to the wild animals upon the smallest pretext.

The Greeks believed slavery to be a necessary institution, without which no city could possibly become the home of a truly civilized people.

The author’s attitude towards Ancient Rome could best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

supportive and protective

sarcastic and humorous

confused and astonished

critical and scathing

irate and flustered

Correct answer:

critical and scathing

Explanation:

The author’s attitude towards Ancient Rome is probably best described as “critical and scathing.” “Scathing” means extremely scornful and harsh. The author employs Rome as a means of comparing the treatment of slaves in Ancient Greece with the treatment of slaves in Ancient Rome. In Rome, the author says, “a slave had as few rights as an engine in a modern factory and could be thrown to the wild animals upon the smallest pretext.” To provide further help, “sarcastic” means using irony to make fun of someone; “humorous” means funny; “irate” means angry; “flustered” means unsettled, agitated, disturbed; “astonished” means greatly surprised.

1 2 3 4 5 7 Next →
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors