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Types of Reading Comprehension Questions on the ISEE

The Reading Comprehension section appears on all three levels of the ISEE. The section consists of passages accompanied by a set of multiple-choice questions: the number of passages and questions depends on the level of the ISEE that you are taking. The passages generally cover topics such as history, science, art, and literature, and there are six different types of questions in the Reading Comprehension section of the ISEE. Each type of question is described below


Main Idea Questions


Main idea questions ask for the main idea, main purpose, or main point of the passage or a specific paragraph. Some examples of main idea questions are listed below:

  • What is the main idea of this passage?

  • What is the author’s main purpose for writing this passage?

  • What is the main point of paragraph three?

  • This passage mainly serves to …

  • Which of the following titles best fits this passage?


Fact Questions


Fact questions ask about something that was directly stated in the passage. The answers to fact questions should be stated somewhere in the passage, and sometimes the answer is in the passage word for word. Some examples of fact questions are listed below:

  • According to the passage, which of the following is true?

  • The author states that …

  • All of the following are true about ——- EXCEPT …

  • The author does all of the following in the passage EXCEPT …


Inference Questions


Inference questions ask you to make an inference, or assumption, about something stated in the passage. Unlike fact questions, the answers to inference questions are not explicitly stated in the passage. Instead, you need to use evidence from the passage to make assumptions about what is true. While the answers won’t be stated directly in the passage, there should be a sentence or two that backs up the correct answer. Words like “probably,” “infer,” “likely,” and “assume” indicate that a question is an inference question. Some examples of inference questions are listed below:

  • The author would most likely agree with which of the following statements?

  • It can be inferred from the passage that …

  • It is likely that the author did ——- because …

  • The author appears to care most about …

  • Line 15 suggests that …

Vocab in Context Questions


Vocab in context questions ask what a word or phrase means in the context of the passage. Sometimes, what the word or phrase means in the context of the passage is NOT the most common definition of the word or phrase. You need to use the context of the passage to determine the meaning of the word or phrase, not prior knowledge. Some examples of vocab in context questions are listed below:

  • In line 5, the word ——- most nearly means …

  • What does the author mean by ——- in the first paragraph?


Organization Questions


Organization questions ask about the structure and organization of the passage or specific paragraphs. Some examples of organization questions are listed below.

  • Which of the following best describes the organization of the passage?

  • Which of the following best describes the structure of the second paragraph?


Tone Questions


Tone questions ask about the author’s tone, or attitude, throughout the passage or towards a specific thing. Look for adjectives in the passage to help determine the tone. Some examples of tone questions are listed below:

  • What is the overall tone of the passage?

  • The author’s attitude towards ——- can best be described as …• The mood of the third paragraph is …

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