What’s Involved in Reading Comprehension on the ISEE Test?

What’s Involved in Reading Comprehension on the ISEE Test?

The Reading Comprehension portion of the ISEE exam comprises six 300-to-600-word passages, with six questions assigned per passage—so 36 questions, in total. Much of what is covered is overt in nature (the main idea of the text, supporting details, and context clues), but there are questions on the ISEE that will require you to dig deeper into the text itself, and analyze what you have found. These questions involve making inferences, analyzing, predicting, and comparing and contrasting.

The Obvious Questions

The basic questions found on the ISEE focus on the details readily available through reading the passage. This includes the main idea (the overall focus or idea of the piece), the passage’s supporting details (any details that reinforce or support the main idea), and context clues (words or phrases surrounding unfamiliar words that reveal its meaning).

  • In any given passage, you can identify a main idea by asking, “What is the author trying to say?” The main idea is usually found in a passage’s opening or introduction, and supported in the following paragraphs.

  • Supporting details can be found by asking, “What evidence is there to support the main idea?” If the main idea is that vegetables are better for you than pizza, for instance, a supporting detail might be, “Vegetables contain vitamins and fiber that are essential for a healthy digestive tract.”

  • Context clues are utilized any time you encounter a word that you do not know. If you see “She took my breath away; she was pulchritudinous,” you can determine that pulchritudinous is most likely to be a positive descriptor, as “took my breath away” is most often used to denote something beautiful or awe-inspiring.

More Complex Questions

The more complex and analytical portions of the ISEE require you to be able to infer, compare and contrast, analyze the structure of a passage, identify additional elements, and make predictions.

  • To infer something, you evaluate all of the details in a passage, and determine what information is implied, but not implicitly stated. If, for instance, a passage describes a person as wearing overalls, slinging hay, and smelling of livestock, it is reasonable to infer that the person in question is a farmer.

  • Comparing and contrasting requires you to evaluate a passage and identify similarities and differences, respectively.

  • To analyze the structure and layout of a passage, you must identify whether the information is presented in an informative format, an argumentative stance, or an instructional format.

  • You may also be asked to identify the point of view in a passage (first-person, second-person, third-person limited, or third-person omniscient), the tone of a piece, and any figurative language within the piece, such as a metaphor (a comparison without using “like” or “as”), a simile (a comparison using “like” or “as”), or hyperbole (exaggeration).

  • From all of the information given in a passage, you’ll likely be asked to predict what would likely happen in time after the passage ends or if a similar situation arose.

How Do I Prepare Reading Comprehension section of the ISEE?

Although reading comprehension is often seen as worrisome for its long passages, it simply requires that you read through each of the provided passages, and either pluck out existing information, or evaluate and identify information that is implied or suggested. Fortunately, practice is often as simple as reading any books, magazines, study guides, or other materials you have on hand. Then you simply apply the principles listed above to those items, in order to develop a healthy, strong understanding of and comfort with these concepts.

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