ISEE Reading Comprehension

  • Posted By: Nora Martin
  • January 3, 2014
For many students, the ISEE’s Reading Comprehension section is daunting.

Students have about five minutes to read each of a handful of passages and answer their adjoining questions.

In prepping for Verbal Reasoning and Reading Comprehension sections, students learn to avoid reading each question’s answer choices (whenever possible) until they have come up with an answer in their own head. Students are additionally benefitted from learning what types of wrong answers frequent ISEE reading sections. Test writers construct wrong answer choices to be tempting, so it is best to avoiding reading them until necessary and to know what to expect.

Wrong answers are at least one of the following...

Not an answer to the given question; irrelevant.
Make sure you carefully read each question! Many answer choices contain true statements but do not answer the particular question. True information that is not relevant to the question is not your friend.

Too extreme.
Wrong answers are often too extreme in either scale or emotion. An author’s tone may be positive or critical without being elated or derogatory. Never choose an extreme answer choice unless the question/passage points to it.

Only partially true.
Many wrong answers are somewhat correct but contain an inaccurate word or phrase. Do not select an answer choice which is only partly correct.

Misused phrases from the passage.
Beware of answer choices which use phrases from the passage. These choices may be correct but first ensure that they both answer the question and are totally true. Do not be tempted by language from the passage that is not properly used.

Opposite of correct answer.
Beware of answer choices which are opposite of the correct answer. Sometimes our brains reach out for these answers, especially if they are wrong only because they do or don’t have a “not” or some other qualifier.

Just plain wrong.
Answers that contain information that you know to be false or illogical are unlikely to be the best answer.

So, what does a correct answer look like?

If you understand all of its content, a correct answer should feel at least 80% correct. It will answer the given question and may or may not repeat language from the passage. It is unlikely to be extreme in either scale or tone and will likely use words like “likely” and unlikely use absolute words like, “always.”

Remember that you may not know all of the vocabulary in answer choices. Do not be afraid to select an answer that you do not understand if you have eliminated all other answers or if the other answers feel only about 60% correct. If you understand the passage, question, and vocabulary, the best answer should certainly feel very correct!

One last tip: practice makes perfect, so check out our practice tests at!

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