ISEE Middle Level Reading : Literature Passages

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

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Example Questions

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

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

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

My son suddenly started up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fritz finds the first coconut he encounters __________.

Possible Answers:

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

hanging on one of the palm trees

by tripping over it

floating in the ocean when he goes swimming

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

Correct answer:

by tripping over it

Explanation:

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

Example Question #121 : Literature Passages

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

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

My son suddenly started up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This passage takes place __________.

Possible Answers:

on a ship

in the Arctic

in a desert

in the tropics

on a mountaintop

Correct answer:

in the tropics

Explanation:

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

Example Question #871 : Act Reading

Adapted from "The Three Musketeers" in Volume Sixteen of The Romances of Alexandre Dumas (1844; 1893 ed.)

As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen's letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d'Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen's letter and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hotel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D'Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

What does the duke want to know from d'Artagnan in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Everything that had happened in a previous situation

What d'Artagnan personally knew about a previous situation

How d'Artagnan is so mature at his age

The location of the hotel in London

What happened to Monsieur de Wardes

Correct answer:

What d'Artagnan personally knew about a previous situation

Explanation:

In the passage's first line, we are told that "the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew." Thus, while it may seem logical that the duke would want to know "everything that had happened in a previous situation," and despite d'Artagnan mentioning "what happened to Monsieur de Wardes" as part of his story, he is not prompted by the duke to do so. Similarly, while near the end of the paragraph the duke wonders how d'Artagnan is so mature, he does not ask d'Artagnan to explain this. The passage directly tells us that the duke wanted to know "what d'Artagnan personally knew about a previous situation," so that is the correct answer.

Example Question #201 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from "The Three Musketeers" in Volume Sixteen of The Romances of Alexandre Dumas (1844; 1893 ed.)

As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen's letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d'Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen's letter and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hotel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D'Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

Why are some people crying out at the end of the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

The riders are yelling at the people.

The people are jealous of the riders.

The people are begging the assistance of the riders.

The people are afraid of the riders.

The riders have hit people while going by so quickly.

Correct answer:

The riders have hit people while going by so quickly.

Explanation:

At the end of the second paragraph, the author writes, "Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses." From this line, we can infer that the riders have knocked other people down in their haste, and that the people who have been knocked down are annoyed and shouting at them out of anger.

Example Question #1241 : Sat Critical Reading

Adapted from "The Three Musketeers" in Volume Sixteen of The Romances of Alexandre Dumas (1844; 1893 ed.)

As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen's letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d'Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen's letter and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hotel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D'Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

Was d’Artagnan injured on his way to London?

Possible Answers:

Yes, he was hit over the head.

No, he evaded any physical conflicts.

Yes, he was left bleeding on the road for a time.

No, he participated in a fight but escaped unscathed.

Yes, he was injured by one sword thrust.

Correct answer:

Yes, he was injured by one sword thrust.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires us to determine not only whether or not d'Artagnan was injured on his way to London, but also the manner in which he was injured or how he escaped injury. A sentence in the middle of the first paragraph tells us that d'Artagnan was injured on his way to London: ". . . d'Artagnan related to [Buckingham] the precaution taken, and how . . . he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust." This tells us that yes, d'Artagnan was injured on his way to London, and that he was injured by "a single sword thrust." That makes the correct answer "Yes, he was injured by one sword thrust." It's important to read carefully, or else you might mistakenly think that d'Artagnan was the one "left scattered and bleeding on the road," when in fact that description pertains to his three friends.

Example Question #71 : Content Of Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Three Musketeers" in Volume Sixteen of The Romances of Alexandre Dumas (1844; 1893 ed.)

As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen's letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d'Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen's letter and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hotel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D'Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

Which other name is used to refer to the duke in the passage?

Possible Answers:

the bishop

Buckingham

Monsieur de Wardes

D'Artagnan

The duke is only referred to as "the duke" in the passage.

Correct answer:

Buckingham

Explanation:

The duke is first named as "Buckingham" in the second paragraph. After reading "D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so," later in the passage we learn that "Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down." We can tell from the context of the paragraph that "Buckingham" is referring to the duke, so "Buckingham" is the correct answer.

Example Question #62 : Understanding The Content Of Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Once on a Time by A. A. Milne (1922)

The Princess was still puzzled. "But I'm grown up," she said. "I don't want a mother so much now."

The King turned his flagon round and studied the other side of it.

"A mother's—er—tender hand," he said, "is—er—never——" and then the outrageous thing happened.

It was all because of a birthday present to the King of Barodia, and the present was nothing less than a pair of seven-league boots. The King being a busy man, it was a week or more before he had an opportunity of trying those boots. Meanwhile he used to talk about them at meals, and he would polish them up every night before he went to bed. When the great day came for the first trial of them to be made, he took a patronizing farewell of his wife and family, ignored the many eager noses pressed against the upper windows of the Palace, and sailed off. The motion, as perhaps you know, is a little disquieting at first, but one soon gets used to it. After that it is fascinating. He had gone some two thousand miles before he realized that there might be a difficulty about finding his way back. The difficulty proved at least as great as he had anticipated. For the rest of that day he toured backwards and forwards across the country; and it was by the merest accident that a very angry King shot in through an open pantry window in the early hours of the morning. He removed his boots and went softly to bed.

It was, of course, a lesson to him. He decided that in the future he must proceed by a recognized route, sailing lightly from landmark to landmark. Such a route his Geographers prepared for him—an early morning constitutional, of three hundred miles or so, to be taken ten times before breakfast. He gave himself a week in which to recover his nerve and then started out on the first of them.

The passage states that which of the following is true?

Possible Answers:

The King is kind to his daughter.

The Queen speaks in a lofty way to her husband.

The Princess's mother died in childbirth.

The King of Barodia is occupied with many pursuits.

The Princess is impetuous.

Correct answer:

The King of Barodia is occupied with many pursuits.

Explanation:

We know the Princess is not “impetuous” as she makes a rational case about not needing a mother in the first two lines. The passage does not explicitly state that the King is kind to the Princess; we can infer this, but it is not stated. The passage does however state that the King of Barodia is “a busy man,” which means he “was occupied with other pursuits” to the point that he did not try the seven-league boots on for a week or more.

Example Question #21 : Summarizing And Describing Literary Fiction Passage Content

Adapted from Once on a Time by A. A. Milne (1922)

The Princess was still puzzled. "But I'm grown up," she said. "I don't want a mother so much now."

The King turned his flagon round and studied the other side of it.

"A mother's—er—tender hand," he said, "is—er—never——" and then the outrageous thing happened.

It was all because of a birthday present to the King of Barodia, and the present was nothing less than a pair of seven-league boots. The King being a busy man, it was a week or more before he had an opportunity of trying those boots. Meanwhile he used to talk about them at meals, and he would polish them up every night before he went to bed. When the great day came for the first trial of them to be made, he took a patronizing farewell of his wife and family, ignored the many eager noses pressed against the upper windows of the palace, and sailed off. The motion, as perhaps you know, is a little disquieting at first, but one soon gets used to it. After that it is fascinating. He had gone some two thousand miles before he realized that there might be a difficulty about finding his way back. The difficulty proved at least as great as he had anticipated. For the rest of that day he toured backwards and forwards across the country, and it was by the merest accident that a very angry King shot in through an open pantry window in the early hours of the morning. He removed his boots and went softly to bed.

It was, of course, a lesson to him. He decided that in the future he must proceed by a recognized route, sailing lightly from landmark to landmark. Such a route his geographers prepared for him—an early morning constitutional, of three hundred miles or so, to be taken ten times before breakfast. He gave himself a week in which to recover his nerve and then started out on the first of them.

The last paragraph establishes all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

seven-league boots act in a sailing motion

the King employs geographers

the King was shaken by his first endeavors with the boots

the King would travel three thousand miles before breakfast

the King changed the routes devised for him

Correct answer:

the King changed the routes devised for him

Explanation:

The last paragraph does not suggest that the King of Barodia influenced the routes his geographers devised for him at all. We know that the King of Barodia employs geographers and that the boots act in a “sailing” motion. The King was most certainly shaken by his first attempts with the boots due to getting lost and the fact that it took him a week to regain “his nerve.” We know he had to travel three thousand miles before breakfast because he had to take a three-hundred-mile route ten times before said meal.

Example Question #10 : Drawing Evidence From Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Once on a Time by A. A. Milne (1922)

The Princess was still puzzled. "But I'm grown up," she said. "I don't want a mother so much now."

The King turned his flagon round and studied the other side of it.

"A mother's—er—tender hand," he said, "is—er—never——" and then the outrageous thing happened.

It was all because of a birthday present to the King of Barodia, and the present was nothing less than a pair of seven-league boots. The King being a busy man, it was a week or more before he had an opportunity of trying those boots. Meanwhile he used to talk about them at meals, and he would polish them up every night before he went to bed. When the great day came for the first trial of them to be made, he took a patronizing farewell of his wife and family, ignored the many eager noses pressed against the upper windows of the palace, and sailed off. The motion, as perhaps you know, is a little disquieting at first, but one soon gets used to it. After that it is fascinating. He had gone some two thousand miles before he realized that there might be a difficulty about finding his way back. The difficulty proved at least as great as he had anticipated. For the rest of that day he toured backwards and forwards across the country, and it was by the merest accident that a very angry King shot in through an open pantry window in the early hours of the morning. He removed his boots and went softly to bed.

It was, of course, a lesson to him. He decided that in the future he must proceed by a recognized route, sailing lightly from landmark to landmark. Such a route his geographers prepared for him—an early morning constitutional, of three hundred miles or so, to be taken ten times before breakfast. He gave himself a week in which to recover his nerve and then started out on the first of them.

Which of the following statements about the King of Barodia is supported by the passage?

Possible Answers:

He is a careless man.

He is condescending towards his peers and subjects. 

He has several means of transportation.

He is a bad King.

None of these answers

Correct answer:

He is condescending towards his peers and subjects. 

Explanation:

“Condescending” means patronizing or superior in attitude toward othersand as the central paragraph says, the King takes “a patronizing farewell of his wife and family, [ignoring] the many eager noses pressed against the upper windows of the palace, and [sails] off.” You could say that he is "careless," but his polishing of the boots every night for a week shows that this is not entirely true.

Example Question #31 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In Literature Passages

Adapted from “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen in Hans Anderson’s Fairy Tales: A New Translation by Mrs. Paull (1867 ed.)

The Sea King had been a widower for many years, and his aged mother kept house for him. She was a very wise woman, and exceedingly proud of her high birth; on that account she wore twelve oysters on her tail, while others, also of high rank, were only allowed to wear six. She was, however, deserving of very great praise, especially for her care of the little sea princesses, her granddaughters. They were six beautiful children; but the youngest was the prettiest of them all. Like all the others, she had no feet, and her body ended in a fish's tail. 

All day long they played in the great halls of the castle, or among the living flowers that grew out of the walls. The large amber windows were open, and the fish swam in, just as the swallows fly into our houses when we open the windows, excepting that the fishes swam up to the princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed themselves to be stroked. 

Outside the castle there was a beautiful garden, in which grew bright red and dark blue flowers, and blossoms like flames of fire; the fruit glittered like gold, and the leaves and stems waved to and fro continually. Each of the young princesses had a little plot of ground in the garden, where she might dig and plant as she pleased. One arranged her flower-bed into the form of a whale; another thought it better to make hers like the figure of a little mermaid; but that of the youngest was round like the sun, and contained flowers as red as its rays at sunset. 

She was a strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters would be delighted with the wonderful things which they obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful marble statue. It was the representation of a handsome boy, carved out of pure white stone, which had fallen to the bottom of the sea from a wreck. She planted by the statue a rose-colored weeping willow. It grew splendidly, and very soon hung its fresh branches over the statue, almost down to the blue sands. Nothing gave her so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the ships and of the towns, the people and the animals. To her it seemed most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers of the land should have fragrance, and not those below the sea; that the trees of the forest should be green; and that the fishes among the trees could sing so sweetly, that it was quite a pleasure to hear them. Her grandmother called the little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for she had never seen birds.

Which of the following best describes the fish in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Skittish

Tame

Ferocious

Slow-moving

Talkative

Correct answer:

Tame

Explanation:

The fish are described in the second paragraph of the passage:

“The large amber windows were open, and the fish swam in, just as the swallows fly into our houses when we open the windows, excepting that the fishes swam up to the princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed themselves to be stroked.”

We are told that “he fishes swam up to the princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed themselves to be stroked.” “Stroked” is a synonym of pet, so the fish are acting like pets toward the princesses. This means that the best descriptor for them is “tame.” “Tame” means domesticated or trained.

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