ISEE Upper Level Reading : Textual Relationships in Contemporary Life Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Contemporary Life Passages

"The Difficulties of Writing One's First Research Paper" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

When a high school student writes his or her first research paper, he or she likely will face a number of difficulties in finding and using sources for the essay. The single most significant of these difficulties is the finding of sources for the paper. The student will likely only know about his or her topic from the discussion that has occurred in class, based on the textbook that is being used. For a research paper, however, it will be necessary to find appropriate texts in the library to support the topic about which he or she is writing. This can be quite overwhelming, for there are often so many books on a given topic that it is difficult to know where to begin if your starting point is only a high school textbook. Many students will be tempted to use every book that they find, not focusing on the most appropriate texts for the topic. On the other hand, some students will rely heavily on a single book on the topic. In this case, many things are overlooked because of the student’s narrow research. Of course, there are a number of other difficulties involved in the writing of such a paper, but the use of sources likely remains the most troublesome by far.

Which sentence explains why students experience difficulties choosing the appropriate kinds and quantities of texts for their first research papers?

Possible Answers:

On the other hand, some students will rely heavily on a single book on the topic.

Of course, there are a number of other difficulties involved in the writing of such a paper, but the use of sources likely remains the most troublesome by far.

Many students will be tempted to use every book that they find, not focusing on the most appropriate texts for the topic.

The single most significant of these difficulties is the finding of sources for the paper.

This can be quite overwhelming, for there are often so many books on a given topic that it is difficult to know where to begin if your starting point is only a high school textbook.

Correct answer:

This can be quite overwhelming, for there are often so many books on a given topic that it is difficult to know where to begin if your starting point is only a high school textbook.

Explanation:

The question is asking why students in general experience the problem of finding sources. It does not distinguish between those students who choose too many texts and those who choose too few; therefore, the best sentence is the one that explains that they experience these problems because they only have their school textbook as a guide. The implication is that this is a limited resource for deciding which books are good for a research project and which are not.

Example Question #1 : Main Ideas In Contemporary Life Passages

"American Students and Foreign Languages" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

American students often find it difficult to understand the need for learning a foreign language. In part, this lack of understanding seems to occur because of the insulated nature of American geography. Unlike Europe, America is a massive country, comprised of states that all speak the same language. When an American travels from state to state, he or she is not confronted with a completely different language group as is the case when, for example, a Frenchman travels from his native land to the neighboring country of Italy or to England. Although America does have Canada to its north and Mexico to its south, it still does not have the great internal variety of languages as one finds in the small European continent. Therefore, students often do not experience the practical importance of knowing other languages.

Of course, America has always been called the “melting pot,” for many peoples have arrived on its shores, bringing their own distinctive cultures and languages with them. Still, this very expression—“melting pot”—shows that these immigrant cultures do not forever retain their own particular manners and languages. With time, these varied cultures become part of the American culture as a whole. While they do influence and change the culture, they likewise become assimilated into it. Their spoken language often becomes English. Even if they retain their mother tongue, they generally speak it privately. This is done as a matter of personal heritage, not as part of the day-to-day life in the culture. 

Additionally, America’s global dominance likewise allows Americans to avoid learning other languages. Since America has such influence over the rest of the world, it is generally in the interests of other peoples to learn English in order to be part of the economic, political, and military world in which America operates. Therefore, even at international meetings that are filled with people from many nationalities and language groups, English-speakers are at an advantage because they can talk with the many individuals who speak English. The work and learning of other peoples thus allows the Americans to convince themselves that there is no need to learn another language. 

Lastly, American education has come to emphasize mathematics and science to such a great degree that things such as language can often seem unimportant. The main goals of education are said to be the training of students for the technology workforce. If this is presented as the main goal of school, few children will understand why any of the non-scientific subjects are included in the curriculum. If a subject does not help in learning math and science, it will appear to be irrelevant. In particular, foreign languages do not seem to add to the teaching of math and science, which can be done very easily and effectively in English alone. 

Of course, many other reasons could be considered, and a more detailed discussion would undertake such a lengthy investigation. Still, the factors discussed above do provide some sense as to why American students find it difficult to understand the importance of learning a foreign language.

What is the purpose of the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To qualify the strong statements of the first paragraph by using the example of the "melting pot" analogy to show that Americans do indeed have an appreciation of other cultures and languages

To show that even though it is a "melting pot" made up of different immigrant cultures, America is able to maintain the state of having a single spoken language

To show that immigrant populations have often come to America, bringing with them cultures and languages that they retain

To show that the "melting pot" experience is extremely important to the linguistic formation of American English

To provide a cultural history of American immigration and its effects on language and civic awareness

Correct answer:

To show that even though it is a "melting pot" made up of different immigrant cultures, America is able to maintain the state of having a single spoken language

Explanation:

The key sentence here is, "Still, this very expression—'melting pot'—shows that these immigrant cultures do not forever retain their own particular manners and languages." This sentence represents a reversal of the first sentence, which might lead you to think that the second paragraph is going to qualify the things that were said before this. While it does indeed concede that America is a "melting pot," the paragraph goes on to argue that the "melting" that occurs—that is, the assimilation that occurs—leads people to abandon their distinctive language groups, at least in their public activities.

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

"American Students and Foreign Languages" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

American students often find it difficult to understand the need for learning a foreign language. In part, this lack of understanding seems to occur because of the insulated nature of American geography. Unlike Europe, America is a massive country, comprised of states that all speak the same language. When an American travels from state to state, he or she is not confronted with a completely different language group as is the case when, for example, a Frenchman travels from his native land to the neighboring country of Italy or to England. Although America does have Canada to its north and Mexico to its south, still it does not have the great internal variety of languages as one finds in the small European continent; therefore, students often do not have the experience of the practical importance of knowing other languages.

Of course, America has always been called the “melting pot,” for many peoples have arrived on these shores bringing their own distinctive cultures and languages. Still, this very expression—“melting pot”—shows that these immigrant cultures do not forever retain their own particular manners and languages. With time, these varied cultures become part of the American culture as a whole. While they do influence and change the culture, they likewise become assimilated into it. Their spoken language becomes English. Even if they retain their mother tongue, they generally speak it privately. This is done as a matter of personal heritage, not as part of the day-to-day life in the culture.

Additionally, America’s global dominance likewise allows Americans to avoid learning other languages. Since America has such influence over the rest of the world, it is generally in the interests of other peoples to learn English in order to be part of the economic, political, and military world in which America operates; therefore, even at international meetings that are filled with people from many nationalities and language groups, English-speakers are at an advantage because they can talk with almost anyone. The work and learning of other peoples thus allows the Americans to convince themselves that there is no need to learn another language.

Lastly, American education has come to emphasize mathematics and science to such a great degree that things such as language can often seem unimportant. The main goals of education are said to be the training of students for the technology workforce. If this is presented as the main goal of school, few children will understand why any of the non-science subjects are included in the curriculum. If a subject does not help in learning math and science, it will appear to be irrelevant. In particular, foreign languages do not seem to add to the teaching of math and science, which can be done very easily and effectively in English alone.

Of course, many other reasons could be considered, and a more detailed discussion would undertake such a lengthy investigation. Still, the factors discussed above do provide some sense as to why American students find it difficult to understand the importance of learning a foreign language.

Based on what is said in the third paragraph, why are other countries encouraged to learn English?

Possible Answers:

American dominance has rotted the cultures of other nations, making them subservient to American mores and language.

America's global dominance creates an environment that greatly encourages the use of English by citizens of other countries.

Other nations naturally enjoy the use of English at international meetings, for it is the most expressive of modern languages.

American imperialism forces English on other countries by refusing to trade with non-English-speaking nations.

America has enforced its language by military pressure on other nations.

Correct answer:

America's global dominance creates an environment that greatly encourages the use of English by citizens of other countries.

Explanation:

The most related sentence to this question is, "Since America has such influence over the rest of the world, it is generally in the interests of other peoples to learn English in order to be part of the economic, political, and military world in which America operates." Other nations have an interest in learning English in order to function with ease in the broad area in which America operates with dominance. While this paragraph speaks of American "dominance," this merely means power or influence; it does not necessarily mean that such dominance is despotic or militaristic.

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