ISEE Middle Level Reading : Identifying and Analyzing Details in History Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Analyzing Details In Natural Science Passages

Adapted from "The Treatment of Rattlesnake Bite by Permanganate of Potassium, Based on Nine Successful Cases" by Amos W. Barber, M.D. in Scientific American Supplement No. 841, Vol. XXXIII (February 13th 1892)

Poisoned wounds, inflicted by the fangs of the rattlesnake, are happily rarer each year, since, as the country is becoming more populated, the crotalus is rapidly being exterminated. Yet, considering the disregard that characterizes the cowboy in his treatment of this reptile, it is astonishing that this class of injury is not more common.

It is the invariable custom among the cattlemen to dismount and destroy these snakes whenever they are seen. This is readily accomplished, since a slight blow will break the back. This blow is, however, generally delivered by means of the quirt, a whip not over two and a half feet long, and hence a weapon which brings the one who wields it in unpleasant proximity to the fangs of the reptile. A still more dangerous practice, and one which I have frequently seen, is a method of playing with the rattlesnake for the humor of the cowboy at the expense of a "tenderfoot." It is well known that unless a snake is coiled or in other specific positions, it cannot strike. On this theory, a mounted cowboy first puts a rattler to flight, then seizes it by the tail, and, swinging it so rapidly around his head that it is impossible for it to strike, sets off in pursuit of whoever has exhibited the most terror at the sight of the reptile. When within fair distance, he hurls the snake at the unfortunate victim, in the full assurance that even should it hit him it cannot bury its fangs in his flesh, since it cannot coil until it reaches the ground. This is a jest of which I have frequently been the victim, nor have I yet learned to appreciate it with unalloyed mirth.

The first case of rattlesnake wound to which I was called occurred in 1885. A cowboy was bitten on the foot, the fang penetrating through the boot. I saw him about twenty-four hours after he was struck. There was enormous swelling, extending up to the knee. There was no special discoloration about the wound; in fact, the swelling disguised this to such an extent that it was impossible to determine exactly where the fangs had entered. The patient was suffering great pain. His mind was clear, but he was oppressed with a dreadful anxiety.

Why was it difficult for the author to identify exactly where the cowboy had been bitten?

Possible Answers:

It wasn’t; the cowboy was bitten in the foot.

The cowboy was refusing to cooperate.

The wound was extremely swollen.

The area around the wound was discolored.

The author was not properly trained.

Correct answer:

The wound was extremely swollen.

Explanation:

This question is a little difficult if you do not read carefully. You might be inclined to answer “It wasn’t; the cowboy was bitten in the foot,” based on the fact that the author says “A cowboy was bitten on the foot, the fang penetrating through the boot.” However, hopefully the use of the word “exactly” in the question encouraged you to read more carefully. The author goes on to say “The whole limb was bronzed in appearance. There was no special discoloration about the wound; in fact, the swelling disguised this to such an extent that it was impossible to determine exactly where the fangs had entered.” So, it is because the wound was “extremely swollen.”

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Details In Social Science Passages

Adapted from Ten Great Events in History by James Johonnot (1887)

Following the Council of Clermont, preparations for invading the Holy Land began in almost every country of Europe. The nobles mortgaged their estates, the farmer endeavored to sell his plow, and the artisan his tools to purchase a sword. During the spring and summer of 1096, the roads teemed with crusaders, all hastening to the towns and villages appointed as the rendezvous of the district. Very few knew where Jerusalem was. Some thought it fifty thousand miles away, and others imagined it but a month's journey; while at the sight of every tower or castle the children exclaimed "Is that Jerusalem?" 

Little attempt at any organization was made, though the multitude had three leaders. It is said that the first band, consisting of twenty thousand foot, with only eight horsemen, were led by a Burgundian gentleman called Walter the Penniless. They were followed by a rabble of forty thousand men, women, and children led by Peter the Hermit. Next followed a band of fifteen thousand men, mostly Germans, under a priest named Gottschalk.

Like their nominal leader, each of the followers of Walter the Penniless was poor to penury, and trusted for subsistence to the chances of the road. In Hungary, they met with loud resistance from the people, whose houses they attacked and plundered, but in Bulgaria, the natives declared war against the hungry horde; they were dispersed and almost exterminated. Some, including Walter, reached Constantinople, where they awaited Peter and his companions. The Hermit, who had the same difficulties to contend with in marching through Hungary and Bulgaria, reached Constantinople with his army greatly reduced, and in a most deplorable condition. Here he and Walter joined forces. They were hospitably received by the emperor, but their riotous conduct soon wearied out his patience, and he was glad to listen to a proposal to help them at once pass into Asia. 

The rabble accordingly crossed the Bosphorus, and took up their quarters in Bethynia. Here they became perfectly ungovernable, ravaging the country around, and committing incredible excesses; at length Peter, utterly disgusted and despairing, left them to their own guidance and returned to Constantinople. The bravest of them were annihilated in a battle fought near Nice, Walter the Penniless falling with seven mortal wounds. Between two and three thousand alone escaped. The emperor dismissed them, with orders to return home, and thus ended the disastrous expedition of Walter the Penniless and Peter the Hermit.

The fifteen thousand Germans led by Gottschalk never reached Constantinople, being slaughtered or dispersed during their passage through Hungary. Thus, within a few months, upward of a quarter of a million of human beings were swept out of existence. And they had spent their lives, without one important result having been accomplished. This was the worst paroxysm of the madness of Europe.

Why did most people sell their belongings before going on a crusade?

Possible Answers:

Because they needed to buy equipment and provisions for travel

Because they thought they would not return

Because they needed to hire men to fight for them

They did not sell their belongings.

Because they wanted to show their faith in God

Correct answer:

Because they needed to buy equipment and provisions for travel

Explanation:

We know that the early crusaders sold their belongings to buy swords from the first paragraph, where it says: “The nobles mortgaged their estates, the farmer endeavored to sell his plow, and the artisan his tools to purchase a sword.” From this, we can infer that most people sold their belongings in order to "buy equipment and provisions for travel."

Example Question #142 : Isee Middle Level (Grades 7 8) Reading Comprehension

Adapted from Ten Great Events in History by James Johonnot (1887)

Following the Council of Clermont, preparations for invading the Holy Land began in almost every country of Europe. The nobles mortgaged their estates, the farmer endeavored to sell his plow, and the artisan his tools to purchase a sword. During the spring and summer of 1096, the roads teemed with crusaders, all hastening to the towns and villages appointed as the rendezvous of the district. Very few knew where Jerusalem was. Some thought it fifty thousand miles away, and others imagined it but a month's journey; while at the sight of every tower or castle the children exclaimed "Is that Jerusalem?" 

Little attempt at any organization was made, though the multitude had three leaders. It is said that the first band, consisting of twenty thousand foot, with only eight horsemen, were led by a Burgundian gentleman called Walter the Penniless. They were followed by a rabble of forty thousand men, women, and children led by Peter the Hermit. Next followed a band of fifteen thousand men, mostly Germans, under a priest named Gottschalk.

Like their nominal leader, each of the followers of Walter the Penniless was poor to penury, and trusted for subsistence to the chances of the road. In Hungary, they met with loud resistance from the people, whose houses they attacked and plundered, but in Bulgaria, the natives declared war against the hungry horde; they were dispersed and almost exterminated. Some, including Walter, reached Constantinople, where they awaited Peter and his companions. The Hermit, who had the same difficulties to contend with in marching through Hungary and Bulgaria, reached Constantinople with his army greatly reduced, and in a most deplorable condition. Here he and Walter joined forces. They were hospitably received by the emperor, but their riotous conduct soon wearied out his patience, and he was glad to listen to a proposal to help them at once pass into Asia. 

The rabble accordingly crossed the Bosphorus, and took up their quarters in Bethynia. Here they became perfectly ungovernable, ravaging the country around, and committing incredible excesses; at length Peter, utterly disgusted and despairing, left them to their own guidance and returned to Constantinople. The bravest of them were annihilated in a battle fought near Nice, Walter the Penniless falling with seven mortal wounds. Between two and three thousand alone escaped. The emperor dismissed them, with orders to return home, and thus ended the disastrous expedition of Walter the Penniless and Peter the Hermit.

The fifteen thousand Germans led by Gottschalk never reached Constantinople, being slaughtered or dispersed during their passage through Hungary. Thus, within a few months, upward of a quarter of a million of human beings were swept out of existence. And they had spent their lives, without one important result having been accomplished. This was the worst paroxysm of the madness of Europe.

Of Peter and Walter's expeditions, what is the rough total of people who perished or never made it to Constantinople?

Possible Answers:

One hundred thousand

Six thousand

Fifty-eight thousand

Eighteen thousand

Thirty-seven thousand five hundred

Correct answer:

Fifty-eight thousand

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read carefully in detail throughout the passage. We know that in Walter's group there were twenty thousand men and that in Peter's there were forty thousand men. This together is sixty thousand. Of those who made it to Constantinople and were then rescued, there are between two and three thousand men, according to the author. So, if only two to three thousand were rescued of sixty thousand, then roughly fifty eight thousand either perished or never made it to Constantinople.

Example Question #143 : Isee Middle Level (Grades 7 8) Reading Comprehension

Adapted from Ten Great Events in History by James Johonnot (1887)

Following the Council of Clermont, preparations for invading the Holy Land began in almost every country of Europe. The nobles mortgaged their estates, the farmer endeavored to sell his plow, and the artisan his tools to purchase a sword. During the spring and summer of 1096, the roads teemed with crusaders, all hastening to the towns and villages appointed as the rendezvous of the district. Very few knew where Jerusalem was. Some thought it fifty thousand miles away, and others imagined it but a month's journey; while at the sight of every tower or castle the children exclaimed "Is that Jerusalem?" 

Little attempt at any organization was made, though the multitude had three leaders. It is said that the first band, consisting of twenty thousand foot, with only eight horsemen, were led by a Burgundian gentleman called Walter the Penniless. They were followed by a rabble of forty thousand men, women, and children led by Peter the Hermit. Next followed a band of fifteen thousand men, mostly Germans, under a priest named Gottschalk.

Like their nominal leader, each of the followers of Walter the Penniless was poor to penury, and trusted for subsistence to the chances of the road. In Hungary, they met with loud resistance from the people, whose houses they attacked and plundered, but in Bulgaria, the natives declared war against the hungry horde; they were dispersed and almost exterminated. Some, including Walter, reached Constantinople, where they awaited Peter and his companions. The Hermit, who had the same difficulties to contend with in marching through Hungary and Bulgaria, reached Constantinople with his army greatly reduced, and in a most deplorable condition. Here he and Walter joined forces. They were hospitably received by the emperor, but their riotous conduct soon wearied out his patience, and he was glad to listen to a proposal to help them at once pass into Asia. 

The rabble accordingly crossed the Bosphorus, and took up their quarters in Bethynia. Here they became perfectly ungovernable, ravaging the country around, and committing incredible excesses; at length Peter, utterly disgusted and despairing, left them to their own guidance and returned to Constantinople. The bravest of them were annihilated in a battle fought near Nice, Walter the Penniless falling with seven mortal wounds. Between two and three thousand alone escaped. The emperor dismissed them, with orders to return home, and thus ended the disastrous expedition of Walter the Penniless and Peter the Hermit.

The fifteen thousand Germans led by Gottschalk never reached Constantinople, being slaughtered or dispersed during their passage through Hungary. Thus, within a few months, upward of a quarter of a million of human beings were swept out of existence. And they had spent their lives, without one important result having been accomplished. This was the worst paroxysm of the madness of Europe.

Which of the following does NOT accurately describe the three armies introduced in the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

All of them included children.

None of them was organized.

Each originally consisted of at least fifteen thousand people.

Each of them set off with the goal of invading the Holy Land.

They all marched through Hungary.

Correct answer:

All of them included children.

Explanation:

The correct answer, meaning the one that does not accurately describe the three armies introduced in the second paragraph, is "All of them included children." The second paragraph only mentions children marching with Peter the Hermit as part of "a rabble of forty thousand men, women, and children"; no mention of children is made in the descriptions of the other armies: Walter the Penniless's army is described as "twenty thousand foot, with only eight horsemen" and Gottschalk's army is described as "a band of fifteen thousand men, mostly Germans."

Example Question #144 : Isee Middle Level (Grades 7 8) Reading Comprehension

Adapted from Ten Great Events in History by James Johonnot (1887)

Following the Council of Clermont, preparations for invading the Holy Land began in almost every country of Europe. The nobles mortgaged their estates, the farmer endeavored to sell his plow, and the artisan his tools to purchase a sword. During the spring and summer of 1096, the roads teemed with crusaders, all hastening to the towns and villages appointed as the rendezvous of the district. Very few knew where Jerusalem was. Some thought it fifty thousand miles away, and others imagined it but a month's journey; while at the sight of every tower or castle the children exclaimed "Is that Jerusalem?" 

Little attempt at any organization was made, though the multitude had three leaders. It is said that the first band, consisting of twenty thousand foot, with only eight horsemen, were led by a Burgundian gentleman called Walter the Penniless. They were followed by a rabble of forty thousand men, women, and children led by Peter the Hermit. Next followed a band of fifteen thousand men, mostly Germans, under a priest named Gottschalk.

Like their nominal leader, each of the followers of Walter the Penniless was poor to penury, and trusted for subsistence to the chances of the road. In Hungary, they met with loud resistance from the people, whose houses they attacked and plundered, but in Bulgaria, the natives declared war against the hungry horde; they were dispersed and almost exterminated. Some, including Walter, reached Constantinople, where they awaited Peter and his companions. The Hermit, who had the same difficulties to contend with in marching through Hungary and Bulgaria, reached Constantinople with his army greatly reduced, and in a most deplorable condition. Here he and Walter joined forces. They were hospitably received by the emperor, but their riotous conduct soon wearied out his patience, and he was glad to listen to a proposal to help them at once pass into Asia. 

The rabble accordingly crossed the Bosphorus, and took up their quarters in Bethynia. Here they became perfectly ungovernable, ravaging the country around, and committing incredible excesses; at length Peter, utterly disgusted and despairing, left them to their own guidance and returned to Constantinople. The bravest of them were annihilated in a battle fought near Nice, Walter the Penniless falling with seven mortal wounds. Between two and three thousand alone escaped. The emperor dismissed them, with orders to return home, and thus ended the disastrous expedition of Walter the Penniless and Peter the Hermit.

The fifteen thousand Germans led by Gottschalk never reached Constantinople, being slaughtered or dispersed during their passage through Hungary. Thus, within a few months, upward of a quarter of a million of human beings were swept out of existence. And they had spent their lives, without one important result having been accomplished. This was the worst paroxysm of the madness of Europe.

How did the emperor react to the crusaders?

Possible Answers:

Initially he was friendly, but he soon grew annoyed with them.

He provided them with supplies but would not let them enter Constantinople.

He joined with them and left Constantinople to fight in battles.

Initially he was annoyed with them, but they convinced him to support them.

He refused to speak to them or meet with them.

Correct answer:

Initially he was friendly, but he soon grew annoyed with them.

Explanation:

The emperor is discussed only near the end of the third paragraph. The author writes, "They were hospitably received by the emperor, but their riotous conduct soon wearied out his patience, and he was glad to listen to a proposal to help them at once pass into Asia." From this sentence, we can see that while the emperor is initially friendly—he receives them "hospitably"—his patience is eventually "wearied out." Another way to describe this transition is to say that the emperor was initially friendly, but soon grew annoyed with the crusaders.

Example Question #145 : 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.

Which of these events did not take place during the reign of Philip II?

Possible Answers:

All of these took place during the reign of Philip II.

The excesses of the Spanish inquisition

The conquering of much of America by Cortes and Pizarro

The contemplation of invading England with the Spanish Armada

The suppression of the Spanish nobles

Correct answer:

The suppression of the Spanish nobles

Explanation:

Answering this question is a simple matter of reading in detail. You could, of course, read the author’s comments about Philip II and see which of these answer choices is not mentioned; however, it is easier to identify the correct answer by reading about the accomplishments of those kings who came before Philip II. The author says, “Charles V succeeded in suppressing the power of the nobles, and all insurrections of the people," so it was Charles V who suppressed the Spanish nobles, not Philip II.

Example Question #2 : Narrative Social Science Passages

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

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

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

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

Why does the author call the underlined nobles “wicked” near the end of the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Because they had abandoned their religion

Because they were unable to provide food and protection for the people

Because they had turned against the king

Because they had tortured the common people

Because they had refused to fight against the French

Correct answer:

Because they had tortured the common people

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read in context and to understand the meanings of a few challenging words. In context, the author says that Henry "forced the wicked nobles to pull down their own castles . . . in which such dismal cruelties had been inflicted on the people.” “Dismal” means gloomy and depressing and “been inflicted on” means done to. So, the author is saying that the nobles were “wicked” because they had done gloomy and horrible things to the people, or “they had tortured the common people.”

Example Question #11 : Identifying And Analyzing Details 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.

Which of these statements is not supported by this passage?

Possible Answers:

Foreigners were rarely, if ever, granted citizenship.

There were more slaves than freemen in Ancient Greece.

Some freemen were much poorer than some slaves.

Warfare was the rare example of an occasion that afforded social mobility in Ancient Greece.

Ancient Greece was never ruled by tyrants.

Correct answer:

Ancient Greece was never ruled by tyrants.

Explanation:

You know that there were more slaves than freemen in Ancient Greece because the author says "Every Greek city was composed of a small number of free born citizens, a large number of slaves and a sprinkling of foreigners [and] . . . a large army of slaves who outnumbered the free citizens at the rate of six or five to one . . ." You know that foreigners were rarely granted citizenship rights except in times of warfare because the author says "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 . . . citizenship was a matter of birth.” Finally, you know that some freemen were much poorer than some slaves because the author says “In the cities, furthermore, many of the slaves were more prosperous than the poorer classes of the freemen.” The only statement that is not supported by this passage is that Ancient Greece was never ruled by tyrants. The author says "The Greek city, therefore, whenever it was not ruled by a king or a tyrant, was run by and for the freemen . . ." This means that the Greek city must have, at times, been ruled by a tyrant.

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