ISEE Reading Comprehension Practice Questions

Now that you’ve learned some strategies for the reading comprehension section of the ISEE, check out some ISEE reading comprehension practice questions. You’ll see easier, lower-level passages first and more difficult, higher-level passages towards the end of the quiz.


Passage 1

ISEE reading comprehension

Question 1
Which of the following best tells what this passage is about?
(A) How to treat viral diseases
(B) The purpose of the World Health Organization
(C) The tragic symptoms of smallpox
(D) The history of the fight against smallpox
(E) Early efforts at controlling infectious diseases

D: (D) is better than (C) because (C) only covers the first paragraph, whereas (D) is broad enough to cover the whole passage.

Question 2
In line 2, the word “acutely” most nearly means
(A) painfully
(B) extremely
(C) unnaturally
(D) sensitively
(E) partly

B: In the context of the second sentence, “acutely” means extremely.

Question 3
It can be inferred from the passage that the earliest recorded cases of smallpox were located in
(A) China
(B) Europe
(C) the Middle East
(D) North America
(E) Africa

A: “China” is the correct answer, judging from the fourth sentence of the first paragraph.

Question 4
The passage implies that smallpox was not eliminated before 1966 because
(A) vaccination did not prevent all forms of the disease
(B) not enough was known about immunity to disease
(C) there was no effective protection against animal carriers
(D) there had never been a coordinated worldwide vaccination campaign
(E) the disease would lie dormant for many years and then reappear

D: The problem before 1966 was not that there was no smallpox immunization; the problem was that no worldwide campaign had been launched to wipe out the disease

Question 5
According to the passage, the WHO’s fight against smallpox was a unique event because
(A) it involved a worldwide campaign of vaccination
(B) a disease had never before been utterly wiped out
(C) animal carriers had to be isolated and vaccinated
(D) doctors were uncertain as to whether Jenner’s methods would work
(E) it was more expensive than any other single vaccination campaign

B: (B) paraphrases the final sentence of the passage and is correct.


Passage 2

ISEE practice questions


Question 6
Which of the following is directly mentioned as evidence of ozone depletion?
(A) An increase in unusual disturbances on the sun’s surface
(B) A decrease in the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth
(C) A decline in skin cancers among people
(D) An increase in solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface
(E) Gaps in the ozonosphere over North America

D: The second sentence of the passage supports (D) as the correct answer.

Question 7
This passage deals primarily with
(A) the reasons why solar radiation is damaging
(B) the atmosphere over Antarctica
(C) how pollutants are destroying the environment
(D) the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer
(E) the loss of ozone from the ozone layer

E: (E) is the one that captures the central focus of the passage without being too narrow or too broad.

Question 8
Which of the following explains why ozone depletion has occurred?
(A) Oxygen is disappearing from the atmosphere.
(B) Temperatures on Earth are rising.
(C) The ozone layer is being broken down by pollutants.
(D) The sun’s rays are becoming stronger.
(E) Sea levels are falling.

C: One way the international community responded to the ozone problem was to ban CFCs and other pollutants; this is supposed stop ozone loss by the turn of the century. From this, you can infer that ozone loss was due to pollutants, (C).

Question 9
The author most likely mentions a greenhouse (line 10) in order to
(A) suggest a way to protect plants from harmful radiation
(B) describe an effect of increasing solar radiation
(C) explain how ozone forms in the atmosphere
(D) explain that heat and humidity are destroying the ozonosphere
(E) describe a climate that would be healthier for people

B: The author uses the greenhouse image to describe the effect of increased radiation on the climate of the Earth.

Question 10
The passage suggests that a full restoration of the ozonosphere
(A) is the only way to save Antarctica from destruction
(B) will probably occur by the year 2000
(C) depends on the frequency of future volcanic eruptions
(D) remains an impossibility despite international efforts
(E) is highly unlikely in the near future

E: (E) is correct because the last sentence of the passage says that “total ozone recovery” will not occur for more than 100 years.


Passage 3

ISEE reading comprehension

Question 11
In the poem, our lives are compared with which of the following?
I. A stream
II. A ship
III. A perfume
(A) I only
(B) II only
(C) III only
(D) I and II only
(E) I, II, and III

A: Remember to look for relevant details directly in the text. “Life is a stream” is the opening line of the poem; the correct choice will contain only statement I. (A) is correct. (B) and (D) contain statement II, which is incorrect. (C) and (E) contain statement III, which is incorrect.

Question 12
“The end lost in dream” (line 4) suggests that
(A) the flower petals sink after some distance
(B) the flower petals become trapped in eddy currents
(C) the flower petals do not lose their red color
(D) the destination of the flower petals can only be imagined
(E) the narrator is asleep

D: Inferences need to be supported by the text. In the poem, the writer stands on the bank of a stream (of life) and tosses flower petals in, after which they drift out of view: “Their distant employ / we shall never know.” (D) describes the writer’s comfortable uncertainty regarding the path of the rose petals. (A) Out of Scope; sinking or floating is not mentioned in the poem. (B) Out of Scope; eddy currents are not mentioned in the poem. (C) Misused Detail; the roses’ color is not relevant. (E) Distortion; the narrator is not asleep.

Question 13
In this poem, the rose most probably represents
(A) employment opportunities
(B) love
(C) death
(D) happiness
(E) life

B: This question asks about the broader sense of the poem. Look carefully for specific words in the poem to support a particular interpretation. In the symbolism of the poem, the rose (“flower of our heart”) is tossed petal by petal into the stream of life; the petals “widening scope…we never shall know.” The emphasis on the heart and the lingering fragrance of the flower suggests that love is symbolized in the poem, (B). (A) Misused Detail; “employ” is not the same as employment. (C) Out of Scope; death is not a subject of the poem. (D) Misused Detail; “joy” does not describe the petals at all points on their drift. (E) Opposite; life is symbolized by the stream; the petals are carried on by life.

Question 14
With which of the following statements about life is the speaker most likely to agree?
(A) The future can be determined through careful planning.
(B) The course of life is determined equally in old age as in youth.
(C) Follow your heart and have few regrets.
(D) Nothing lasts from life’s early experiences.
(E) There are only a few true friends but many acquaintances.

C: Poetry questions requiring Inference need to be answered carefully, finding specific words to support each claim. The representation of life as a stream, unknowable in destination, communicates unpredictability. The author comfortably states that once petals are launched, “each one is gone,” (C). (A) Opposite; life as a stream does not allow for predicted consequences. (B) Extreme; “We only watch their glad, early start” communicates greater influence over the beginning of life experiences. (D) Extreme; “its fragrance still stays,” so something remains of early experiences. (E) Out of Scope; the poem does not address friendship.

Need some help prepping for the ISEE? Check out Kaplan’s study resources!