ISEE Upper Level Reading : Ideas in Literature Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1231 : Sat Critical Reading

Adapted From "Tony Kytes, The Arch-Deceiver" in Life's Little Ironies: A Set of Tales, with some colloquial sketches, entitled, A Few Crusted Characters by Thomas Hardy (1905 ed.)

I shall never forget Tony’s face. It was a little, round, firm, tight face, with a seam here and there left by the small-pox, but not enough to hurt his looks in a woman's eye, though he'd had it baddish when he was a boy. So very serious looking and unsmiling 'a was, that young man, that it really seemed as if he couldn't laugh at all without great pain to his conscience. He looked very hard at a small speck in your eye when talking to 'ee. And there was no more sign of a whisker or beard on Tony Kytes's face than on the palm of my hand. He used to sing "The Tailor's Breeches," with all its scandelous lyrics, in a religious manner, as if it were a hymn. He was quite the women's favorite.

But in course of time Tony got fixed down to one in particular, Milly Richards – a nice, light, small, tender little thing; and it was soon said that they were engaged to be married. One Saturday he had been to market to do business for his father, and was driving home the wagon in the afternoon. When he reached the foot of the hill, who should he see waiting for him at the top but Unity Sallet, a handsome girl, one of the young women he'd been very tender towards before he'd got engaged to Milly.

As soon as Tony came up to her she said, "My dear Tony, will you give me a lift home?"

"That I will, darling," said Tony. "You don't suppose I could refuse 'ee?"

She smiled a smile, and up she hopped, and on drove Tony.

"Tony," she says, in a sort of tender chide, "Why did ye desert me for that other one? In what is she better than I? I should have made 'ee a finer wife, and a more loving one, too. 'Tisn't girls that are so easily won at first that are the best. Think how long we've known each other—ever since we were children almost—now haven't we, Tony?"

"Yes, that we have," says Tony, struck with the truth o't.

"And you've never seen anything in me to complain of, have ye, Tony? Now tell the truth to me."

"I never have, upon my life," says Tony.

"And—can you say I'm not pretty, Tony? Now look at me.

He let his eyes light upon her for a long while. "I really can't," says he. "In fact, I never knowed you was so pretty before!"

Which of the following sentences best summarizes the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Tony's father made Tony do most of his business at the market.

Tony was engaged to be married to Milly and was going home from market.

Milly disliked Unity as they were rivals.

Tony was going to market when he saw an old flame named Unity.

Tony was in love with Unity and was only marrying Milly for her wealth.

Correct answer:

Tony was engaged to be married to Milly and was going home from market.

Explanation:

The second paragraph establishes that Tony was returning from market and that he was engaged to marry Milly Richards. We can assume that he had feelings for both girls but we can not to any extent claim that he loved either.

Example Question #211 : Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Writing of Essays" in Certain Personal Matters by H.G. Wells (1901)

The art of the essayist is so simple, so entirely free from canons of criticism, and withal so delightful, that one must needs wonder why all men are not essayists. Perhaps people do not know how easy it is. Or perhaps beginners are misled. Rightly taught it may be learnt in a brief ten minutes or so, what art there is in it. And all the rest is as easy as wandering among woodlands on a bright morning in the spring.

Then sit you down if you would join us, taking paper, pens, and ink; and mark this, your pen is a matter of vital moment. For every pen writes its own sort of essay, and pencils also after their kind. The ink perhaps may have its influence too, and the paper; but paramount is the pen. This, indeed, is the fundamental secret of essay-writing. Wed any man to his proper pen, and the delights of composition and the birth of an essay are assured. Only many of us wander through the earth and never meet with her—futile and lonely men.

And, of all pens, your quill for essays that are literature. There is a subtle informality, a delightful easiness, perhaps even a faint immorality essentially literary, about the quill. The quill is rich in suggestion and quotation. There are quills that would quote you Montaigne and Horace in the hands of a trades-union delegate. And those quirky, idle noises this pen makes are delightful, and would break your easy fluency with wit. All the classical essayists wrote with a quill, and Addison used the most expensive kind the Government purchased. And the beginning of the inferior essay was the dawn of the cheap steel pen.

Wells says that all of the following are possible with the quill pen EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

a slight hint of immorality

a possibility of better focus

a degree of informality

a pleasurable easiness

Correct answer:

a possibility of better focus

Explanation:

While near the beginning of the third paragraph, Wells claims, "There is a subtle informality, a delightful easiness, perhaps even a faint immorality essentially literary, about the quill," he never mentions focus as one of the chief benefits of using a quill pen.

Example Question #211 : Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "Review of Wyandotté, or The Hutted Knoll" by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)

The most obvious and most unaccountable faults of The Hutted Knoll are those which appertain to the style—to the mere grammatical construction; for, in other and more important particulars of style, Mr. Cooper, of late days, has made a very manifest improvement. His sentences, however, are arranged with an awkwardness so remarkable as to be matter of absolute astonishment, when we consider the education of the author and his long and continual practice with the pen. In minute descriptions of localities, any verbal inaccuracy or confusion becomes a source of vexation and misunderstanding, detracting very much from the pleasure of perusal; and in these inaccuracies Wyandotté abounds. Although, for instance, we carefully read and reread that portion of the narrative that details the situation of the Knoll, and the construction of the buildings and walls about it, we were forced to proceed with the story without any exact or definite impressions upon the subject. Similar difficulties, from similar causes, occur passim throughout the book. For example, at page 41, vol. I:

“The man gazed at the house with a fierce intentness that sometimes glared, in a manner that had got to be, in its ordinary aspects, dull.”  This it is utterly impossible to comprehend. We presume, however, the intention is to say that although the man’s ordinary manner (of gazing) had “got to be” dull, he occasionally gazed with an intentness that glared, and that he did so in the instance in question. The “got to be” is atrocious, the whole sentence no less so.

Here, at page 9, vol. I, is something excessively vague: “Of the latter character is the face of most of that region that lies in the angle formed by the junction of the Mohawk with the Hudson,” etc. etc. The Mohawk, joining the Hudson, forms two angles, of course—an acute and an obtuse one; and, without farther explanation, it is difficult to say which is intended.

At page 55, vol. I., we read: “The captain, owing to his English education, had avoided straight lines, and formal paths, giving to the little spot the improvement on nature which is a consequence of embellishing her works without destroying them. On each side of this lawn was an orchard, thrifty and young, and that were already beginning to show signs of putting forth their blossoms.”  Here we are tautologically informed that improvement is a consequence of embellishment, and supererogatorily told that the rule holds good only where the embellishment is not accompanied by destruction. Upon the “each orchard were" it is needless to comment.

Poe suggests that Cooper's awkward sentences are shocking considering all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

he has improved so much in other stylistic areas

he is so well-educated

his descriptions are so confusing and perplexing

he has written so many books up to this point

Correct answer:

his descriptions are so confusing and perplexing

Explanation:

Poe says that Cooper's flawed descriptions are a problem of the novel, not a reason why his awkward sentence structure is so shocking.

Example Question #491 : Isee Middle Level (Grades 7 8) Reading Comprehension

Adapted from A Room With a View by E.M. Forster (1908)

"The Signora had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!"

"And a Cockney, besides!" said Lucy, who had been further saddened by the Signora's unexpected accent. "It might be London." She looked at the two rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at the row of white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between the English people; at the portraits of the late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung behind the English people, heavily framed; at the notice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M. A. Oxon.), that was the only other decoration of the wall. "Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all kinds of other things are just outside. I suppose it is one's being so tired."

"This meat has surely been used for soup," said Miss Bartlett, laying down her fork.

"I want so to see the Arno. The rooms the Signora promised us in her letter would have looked over the Arno. The Signora had no business to do it at all. Oh, it is a shame!"

"Any nook does for me," Miss Bartlett continued, "but it does seem hard that you shouldn't have a view."

Lucy felt that she had been selfish. "Charlotte, you mustn't spoil me; of course, you must look over the Arno, too. I meant that. The first vacant room in the front—" "You must have it," said Miss Bartlett, part of whose traveling expenses were paid by Lucy's mother—a piece of generosity to which she made many a tactful allusion.

"No, no. You must have it."

"I insist on it. Your mother would never forgive me, Lucy."

"She would never forgive me."

The ladies' voices grew animated, and—if the sad truth be owned—a little peevish. They were tired, and under the guise of unselfishness they wrangled. Some of their neighbors interchanged glances, and one of them—one of the ill-bred people whom one does meet abroad—leant forward over the table and actually intruded into their argument. He said:

"I have a view, I have a view."

Miss Bartlett was startled. Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out that they would "do" till they had gone. She knew that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced at him. He was an old man, of heavy build, with a fair, shaven face and large eyes. There was something childish in those eyes, though it was not the childishness of senility. What exactly it was Miss Bartlett did not stop to consider, for her glance passed on to his clothes. These did not attract her. He was probably trying to become acquainted with them before they got into the swim. So she assumed a dazed expression when he spoke to her, and then said: "A view? Oh, a view! How delightful a view is!”

In the final paragraph, Miss Bartlett’s negative opinion of the man is partially based on his __________.

Possible Answers:

attitude

accent

hygiene

shoes

clothing

Correct answer:

clothing

Explanation:

Miss Bartlett observes the old man in the passage's final paragraph: "She knew that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced at him. He was an old man, of heavy build, with a fair, shaven face and large eyes. There was something childish in those eyes, though it was not the childishness of senility. What exactly it was Miss Bartlett did not stop to consider, for her glance passed on to his clothes. These did not attract her. He was probably trying to become acquainted with them before they got into the swim." 

We can tell from this quotation—specifically from " . . . her glance passed on to his clothes. These did not attract her"—that Miss Bartlett judges the man based on his clothing.

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