ISEE Middle Level Reading : Textual Relationships in Science 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 Cause And Effect In Science Passages

Adapted from Anecdotes of the Habits and Instincts of Animals by Mrs. R. Lee (1852)

The Carnivora are divided by naturalists into three groups, the characters of which are taken from their feet and manner of walking. Bears rank among the Plantigrada, or those which put the whole of their feet firmly upon the ground when they walk. They are occasionally cunning and ferocious, but often evince good humor and a great love of fun. In their wild state, they are solitary the greater part of their lives. They climb trees with great facility; live in caverns, holes, and hollow trees; and in cold countries, retire to some sequestered spot during the winter, where they remain concealed and bring forth their young. Some say they are torpid, but this cannot be, for the female bears come from their retreats with cubs that have lived upon them, and it is not likely that they can have reared them and remained without food; they are, however, often very lean and wasted, and the absorption of their generally large portion of fat contributes to their nourishment. The story that they live by sucking their paws is, as may be supposed, a fable; when well-fed they always lick their paws, very often accompanying the action with a peculiar sort of mumbling noise. There are a few which will never eat flesh, and all are able to do without it. They are, generally speaking, large, clumsy, and awkward, possessing large claws for digging, and often walk on their hind feet, a facility afforded them by the peculiar formation of their thigh bone. They do not often attack in the first instance, unless impelled by hunger or danger; they are, however, formidable opponents when excited. In former times, there were few parts of the globe in which they were not to be found, but, like other wild animals, they have disappeared before the advance of man. Still they are found in certain spots from the northern regions of the world to the burning climes of Africa, Asia, and America. The latest date of their appearance in Great Britain was in Scotland during the year 1057.

What reason does the author give for the disappearance of bears around the world?

Possible Answers:

The interference of humans

A decline in food supply

Climate change

Evolutionary setbacks

All of the other answer choices are given as reasons.

Correct answer:

The interference of humans

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read carefully in detail. Towards the end of the passage, the author says, “In former times, there were few parts of the globe in which they were not to be found, but, like other wild animals, they have disappeared before the advance of man.” So, bears have disappeared around the world due to human interference.

Example Question #151 : Science Passages

Adapted from The Story of Eclipses by George F. Chambers (1900)

Observations of total solar eclipses during the nineteenth century have been, for the most part, carried out under circumstances so essentially different from everything that has gone before, that not only does a new chapter seem desirable but also a new form of treatment. Up to the beginning of the eighteenth century, the observations (even the best of them) may be said to have been made and recorded with but few exceptions by unskilled observers with no clear ideas as to what they should look for and what they might expect to see. Things improved a little during the eighteenth century, and the observations by Halley, Maclaurin, Bradley, Don Antonio Ulloa, Sir W. Herschel, and others in particular rose to a much higher standard than any that had preceded them. However, it has only been during the nineteenth century, and especially during the latter half of it, that total eclipses of the sun have been observed under circumstances calculated to extract from them large and solid extensions of scientific knowledge.

The total eclipse of July 28, 1851, may be said to have been the first which was the subject of an “Eclipse Expedition,” a phrase which of late years has become exceedingly familiar. The total phase was visible in Norway and Sweden, and great numbers of astronomers from all parts of Europe flocked to those countries. The red flames were very much in evidence, and the fact that they belonged to the sun and not to the moon was clearly established. Hind mentions that “the aspect of Nature during the total eclipse was grand beyond description.” This feature is dwelt upon with more than usual emphasis in many of the published accounts. I have never seen it suggested that the mountainous character of the country may have had something to do with it, but that idea would seem not improbable.

In the year 1858, two central eclipses of the sun occurred, both presenting some features of interest. That of March 15 was annular, the central line passing across England. The weather generally was unfavorable and the annular phase was only observed at a few places, but important meteorological observations were made and yielded results, as regards the diminution of temperature, which were very definite.

Why was the central solar eclipse of 1858 only properly viewed in a few places in England?

Possible Answers:

The scientists were unprepared and taken by surprise.

Those scientists that were looking did not really know on which phenomena to focus.

England was at war at the time and the best minds of the country were otherwise engaged.

The total eclipse could best be seen in Norway and Sweden.

The weather was unpleasant and obscured much of the sky.

Correct answer:

The weather was unpleasant and obscured much of the sky.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read carefully in detail and identify the relevant supporting clue. In the third paragraph, when talking about the March 15th eclipse, the author says, “The weather generally was unfavorable and the annular phase was only observed at a few places." So, the reason it was viewed in only a few places was because “the weather generally was unfavorable.”

Example Question #61 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from The Story of Eclipses by George F. Chambers (1900)

Observations of total solar eclipses during the nineteenth century have been, for the most part, carried out under circumstances so essentially different from everything that has gone before, that not only does a new chapter seem desirable but also a new form of treatment. Up to the beginning of the eighteenth century, the observations (even the best of them) may be said to have been made and recorded with but few exceptions by unskilled observers with no clear ideas as to what they should look for and what they might expect to see. Things improved a little during the eighteenth century, and the observations by Halley, Maclaurin, Bradley, Don Antonio Ulloa, Sir W. Herschel, and others in particular rose to a much higher standard than any that had preceded them. However, it has only been during the nineteenth century, and especially during the latter half of it, that total eclipses of the sun have been observed under circumstances calculated to extract from them large and solid extensions of scientific knowledge.

The total eclipse of July 28, 1851, may be said to have been the first which was the subject of an “Eclipse Expedition,” a phrase which of late years has become exceedingly familiar. The total phase was visible in Norway and Sweden, and great numbers of astronomers from all parts of Europe flocked to those countries. The red flames were very much in evidence, and the fact that they belonged to the sun and not to the moon was clearly established. Hind mentions that “the aspect of Nature during the total eclipse was grand beyond description.” This feature is dwelt upon with more than usual emphasis in many of the published accounts. I have never seen it suggested that the mountainous character of the country may have had something to do with it, but that idea would seem not improbable.

In the year 1858, two central eclipses of the sun occurred, both presenting some features of interest. That of March 15 was annular, the central line passing across England. The weather generally was unfavorable and the annular phase was only observed at a few places, but important meteorological observations were made and yielded results, as regards the diminution of temperature, which were very definite.

Why did many scholars visit Norway and Sweden in 1851?

Possible Answers:

To escape religious persecution in central and western Europe

All of the other answers are at least partially true.

To view the total phase of a solar eclipse

To attend a conference on recent scientific revelations about solar eclipses

To publish their work without state censorship

Correct answer:

To view the total phase of a solar eclipse

Explanation:

In the second paragraph, the author says, “The total eclipse of July 28, 1851, may be said to have been the first which was the subject of an 'Eclipse Expedition,' . . . The total phase was visible in Norway and Sweden, and great numbers of astronomers from all parts of Europe flocked to those countries.” So, many scholars flocked to these two countries to view the total phase of a solar eclipse.

Example Question #22 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from Cassell’s Natural History by Francis Martin Duncan (1913)

The penguins are a group of birds inhabiting the southern ocean, for the most part passing their lives in the icy waters of the Antarctic seas. Like the ratitae, penguins have lost the power of flight, but the wings are modified into swimming organs and the birds lead an aquatic existence and are scarcely seen on land except in the breeding season. They are curious-looking creatures that appear to have no legs, as the limbs are encased in the skin of the body and the large flat feet are set so far back that the birds waddle along on land in an upright position in a very ridiculous manner, carrying their long narrow flippers held out as if they were arms. When swimming, penguins use their wings as paddles while the feet are used for steering.

Penguins are usually gregarious—in the sea, they swim together in schools, and on land, assemble in great numbers in their rookeries. They are very methodical in their ways, and on leaving the water, the birds always follow well-defined tracks leading to the rookeries, marching with much solemnity one behind the other in soldierly order. 

The largest species of penguins are the king penguin and the emperor penguin, the former being found in Kerguelen Land, the Falklands, and other southern islands, and the latter in Victoria Land and on the pack ice of the Antarctic seas. As they are unaccustomed from the isolation of their haunts to being hunted and persecuted by man, emperor penguins are remarkably fearless, and Antarctic explorers invading their territory have found themselves objects of curiosity rather than fear to the strange birds who followed them about as if they were much astonished at their appearance. 

The emperor penguin lays but a single egg and breeds during the intense cold and darkness of the Antarctic winter. To prevent contact with the frozen snow, the bird places its egg upon its flat webbed feet and crouches down upon it so that it is well covered with the feathers. In spite of this precaution, many eggs do not hatch and the mortality amongst the young chicks is very great.

According to the passage, why are emperor penguins so bold in approaching Antarctic explorers?

Possible Answers:

They are not used to humans and have not been hunted by them. 

They think that the explorers might be prey.

They are territorial and each wants to protect the area it has claimed.

They are shy.

They want to seem brave to impress their mates.

Correct answer:

They are not used to humans and have not been hunted by them. 

Explanation:

The passage talks about emperor penguins approaching Antarctic explorers in its third paragraph, stating the following:

“As they are unaccustomed from the isolation of their haunts to being hunted and persecuted by man, emperor penguins are remarkably fearless, and Antarctic explorers invading their territory have found themselves objects of curiosity rather than fear to the strange birds who followed them about as if they were much astonished at their appearance.”

The most important part of this long sentence in answering this question is its opening phrase, “As they are unaccustomed from the isolation of their haunts to being hunted and persecuted by man . . .” The “as” is functioning like “because” and therefore telling us the reason why emperor penguins are so bold in this way. This means that while some of the other answer choices may sound reasonable and valid, the correct answer is “They are not used to humans and have not been hunted by them,” as this is what the passage states.

Example Question #51 : Ideas In Science Passages

Adapted from "The Wild Llama" by Charles Darwin in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

The wild llama is the characteristic quadruped of the plains of Patagonia; it is the South American representative of the camel in the East. It is an elegant animal in a state of nature, with a long slender neck and fine legs. It is very common over the whole of the temperate parts of the continent, as far south as the islands near Cape Horn. It generally lives in small herds of from half a dozen to thirty in each, but on the banks of the St. Cruz we saw one herd which must have contained at least five hundred.

They are generally wild and extremely wary. Mr. Stokes told me that he one day saw through a glass a herd of these animals which evidently had been frightened and were running away at full speed, although they were so far away that he could not distinguish them with his naked eye. The sportsman frequently receives the first notice of their presence by hearing from a long distance their peculiar shrill, neighing note of alarm. If he then looks attentively, he will probably see the herd standing in a line on the side of some distant hill. On approaching nearer, a few more squeals are given, and off they set at an apparently slow, but really quick canter, along some narrow beaten track to a neighboring hill. If, however, by chance, he abruptly meets a single animal, or several together, they will generally stand motionless and intently gaze at him, then perhaps move on a few yards, turn round, and look again. What is the cause of this difference in their shyness? Do they mistake a man in the distance for their chief enemy, the puma? Or does curiosity overcome their timidity?

Why was the herd of llamas that the author witnessed on the banks of the St. Cruz considered exceptional?

Possible Answers:

It was found in an environment that was typically very uncommon for llamas to be found in.

It was eating a type of food that is extremely uncommon for wild llamas to eat.

It was much larger than the typical size of herds that the author had observed.

It was exhibiting aggressive behavior that is highly unusual for a pack of llamas.

It was demonstrating a level of intelligence considered almost impossible for wild llamas.

Correct answer:

It was much larger than the typical size of herds that the author had observed.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires little more than reading in context and identifying relevant information. The author says, “It generally lives in small herds of from half a dozen to thirty in each, but on the banks of the St. Cruz we saw one herd which must have contained at least five hundred.” So, llamas are usually found in herds between six and thirty individuals, but the pack found near the banks of the St. Cruz river contained over five hundred individuals.

Example Question #61 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from "Wasps" by Thomas G. Belt in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

One day I saw a small black and yellow banded wasp hunting for spiders; it approached a web where a spider was stationed in the center, made a dart towards it—apparently a feint to frighten the spider clear of its web; at any rate it had that effect, for it fell to the ground, and was immediately seized by the wasp, who stung it, then ran quickly backwards, dragging the spider after it, up a branch reaching to the ground until it got high enough, when it flew heavily off with it. It was so small, and the spider so cumbersome, that it probably could not have raised it from the ground by flight.

All over the world there are wasps that store their nests with the bodies of spiders for their young to feed on. In Australia, I often witnessed a wasp engaging with a large flat spider that is found on the bark of trees. It would fall to the ground, and lie on its back, so as to be able to grapple with its opponent; but the wasp was always the victor in the encounters I saw, although it was not always allowed to carry off its prey in peace. One day, sitting on the sandbanks on the coast of Hobson’s Bay, I saw one dragging along a large spider. Three or four inches above it hovered two minute flies, keeping a little behind, and advancing with it. The wasp seemed much disturbed by the presence of the tiny flies, and twice left its prey to fly up towards them, but they darted away with it. As soon as the wasp returned to the spider, there they were hovering over and following it again. At last, unable to drive away its small provocateurs, the wasp reached its burrow and took down the spider, and the two flies stationed themselves one on each side of the entrance, and would, doubtless, when the wasp went away to seek another victim, descend and lay their own eggs in the nest.

Why is the wasp annoyed by the presence of the flies?

Possible Answers:

The flies will alert spiders to the presence of the wasp, rendering the wasp’s endeavors less productive.

The flies will lay their eggs inside the wasp’s nest, which will consume the food meant for the wasp’s young.

The flies will consume the spider’s body themselves, leaving the wasp without food.

The flies are an inconvenience to the wasp because they force the wasp to hide the spider more carefully.

The flies are impossible for the wasp to catch and so the wasp will have to go hungry.

Correct answer:

The flies will lay their eggs inside the wasp’s nest, which will consume the food meant for the wasp’s young.

Explanation:

Answering this question is a simple case of reading for details. At the very end of the passage, the author says "the two flies stationed themselves one on each side of the entrance [to the wasp's burrow], and would, doubtless, when the wasp went away to seek another victim, descend and lay their own eggs in the nest.” You are also told earlier that wasps "store their nests with the bodies of spiders for their young to feed on.” So, the wasp is annoyed by the presence of the flies because the flies will lay their own eggs inside the spider’s nest, which will consume the spider and deprive the wasp’s young of food.

Example Question #121 : Science Passages

Adapted from "Wasps" by Thomas G. Belt in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

One day I saw a small black and yellow banded wasp hunting for spiders; it approached a web where a spider was stationed in the center, made a dart towards it—apparently a feint to frighten the spider clear of its web; at any rate it had that effect, for it fell to the ground, and was immediately seized by the wasp, who stung it, then ran quickly backwards, dragging the spider after it, up a branch reaching to the ground until it got high enough, when it flew heavily off with it. It was so small, and the spider so cumbersome, that it probably could not have raised it from the ground by flight.

All over the world there are wasps that store their nests with the bodies of spiders for their young to feed on. In Australia, I often witnessed a wasp engaging with a large flat spider that is found on the bark of trees. It would fall to the ground, and lie on its back, so as to be able to grapple with its opponent; but the wasp was always the victor in the encounters I saw, although it was not always allowed to carry off its prey in peace. One day, sitting on the sandbanks on the coast of Hobson’s Bay, I saw one dragging along a large spider. Three or four inches above it hovered two minute flies, keeping a little behind, and advancing with it. The wasp seemed much disturbed by the presence of the tiny flies, and twice left its prey to fly up towards them, but they darted away with it. As soon as the wasp returned to the spider, there they were hovering over and following it again. At last, unable to drive away its small provocateurs, the wasp reached its burrow and took down the spider, and the two flies stationed themselves one on each side of the entrance, and would, doubtless, when the wasp went away to seek another victim, descend and lay their own eggs in the nest.

Why does the wasp have to drag the spider up a branch before flying back to its nest with it?

Possible Answers:

Because the wasp needs to get away from the other spiders

Because the spider is too heavy for the wasp to lift off the ground

Because the wasp is trying to avoid detection by any flies, or other interfering insects

Because the wasp is worried about remaining on the ground where it can be easily preyed upon

Because the spider is not quite dead and has the advantage on the ground

Correct answer:

Because the spider is too heavy for the wasp to lift off the ground

Explanation:

Answering this question requires reading in detail and understanding a somewhat challenging word that the author employs. After mentioning that the wasp took the spider into a branch before taking off and flying back to its nest, the author says, “It was so small, and the spider so cumbersome, that it probably could not have raised it from the ground by flight.” The word “cumbersome,” in this context, means burdensome and heavy to carry. So the spider is “too heavy” for the wasp and therefore the wasp drags it into a tree rather than lifting it off the ground itself.

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