ACT English : Analyzing Effectiveness

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Question #1 : Analyzing Effectiveness

Adapted from The Autobiography of John Adams (ed. 1856)

Here I will interrupt the narration for a moment to observe that, from all I have read of the history of Greece and Rome, England and France, and all I have observed at home and abroad, articulate eloquence in public assemblies is not the surest road to fame or preferment, at least, unless it be used with caution, very rarely, and with great reserve. The examples of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson is enough to show that silence and reserve in public is more efficacious than argumentation or oratory. A public speaker who inserts himself, or is urged by others, into the conduct of affairs, by daily exertions to justify his measures, and answer the objections of opponents, makes himself too familiar with the public and unavoidably makes himself enemies. Few persons can bear to be outdone in reasoning or declamation or wit or sarcasm or repartee or satire, and all these things that are very apt to grow out of public debate. In this way, in a course of years, a nation becomes full of a man’s enemies, or at least, of such as have been galled in some controversy and take a secret pleasure in assisting to humble and mortify him. So much for this digression. We will now return to our memoirs.

Which of the following sentences provides an instance that is meant to illustrate what the author is advising in this passage?

Possible Answers:

The examples of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson are enough to show that silence and reserve in public are more efficacious than argumentation or oratory.

Here I will interrupt the narration for a moment to observe that, from all I have read of the history of Greece and Rome, England and France, and all I have observed at home and abroad, articulate eloquence in public assemblies is not the surest road to fame or preferment, at least, unless it be used with caution, very rarely, and with great reserve.

Few persons can bear to be outdone in reasoning or declamation or wit or sarcasm or repartee or satire, and all these things that are very apt to grow out of public debate.

In this way, in a course of years, a nation becomes full of a man’s enemies, or at least, of such as have been galled in some controversy and take a secret pleasure in assisting to humble and mortify him.

Correct answer:

The examples of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson are enough to show that silence and reserve in public are more efficacious than argumentation or oratory.

Explanation:

The author is arguing that "articulate eloquence in public assemblies is not the surest road to fame or preferment, at least, unless it be used with caution, very rarely, and with great reserve." Implicitly, he is meaning to offer advice against thinking that it is a means to fame. Directly after this sentence, he provides an example illustrating that silence is "more efficacious than argumentation or oratory": "The examples of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson are enough to show that silence and reserve in public are more efficacious than argumentation or oratory."

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Effectiveness

Adapted from Looking Backward: 2000 to 1887 by Edward Bellamy (1888)

I first saw the light in the city of Boston in the year 1857. "What" you say "eighteen fifty-seven? That is an odd slip. He means nineteen fifty-seven, of course." I beg pardon, but there is no mistake. It was about four in the afternoon of December the 26th, one day after Christmas, in the year 1857, not 1957, that I first breathed the east wind of Boston, which, I assure the reader, was at that remote period marked by the same penetrating quality characterizing it in the present year of grace, 2000.

These statements seem so absurd on their face, especially when I add that I am a young man apparently of about thirty years of age, that no person can be blamed for refusing to read another word of what promises to be a mere imposition upon his credulity. Nevertheless I earnestly assure the reader that no imposition is intended, and will undertake if he shall follow me a few pages to entirely convince him of this. If I may, then, provisionally assume, with the pledge of justifying the assumption, that I know better than the reader when I was born, I will go on with my narrative.

According to the passage, the year in which the narrator is writing is which of the following?

Possible Answers:

1857

1957

2000

1887

Correct answer:

2000

Explanation:

The reader refers to "the present year of grace, 2000."

Example Question #3 : Analyzing Effectiveness

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.

Which is the best paraphrase of the underlined section, "to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime"?

Possible Answers:

to give man, via the sight of the stars, a continual awe-inspiring view

to give man, inside the planets, a constant state of being

to give man, by looking at the heavens, a chance to see heaven

to provide man, via the stars, something to look at

Correct answer:

to give man, via the sight of the stars, a continual awe-inspiring view

Explanation:

The phrase "to give man, via the sight of the stars, a continual awe-inspiring view" is closest to the original meaning of the phrase.

Example Question #4 : Analyzing Effectiveness

Adapted from Hard Times by Charles Dickens (1854)

A candle faintly burned in the window, to which the black ladder had often been raised for the sliding away of all that was most precious in this world to a striving wife and a brood of hungry babies. Stephen added to his other thoughts the stern reflection, that of all the casualties of this existence upon earth, not one was dealt out with so unequal a hand as death. The inequality of birth was nothing to it. For example, the child of a king and the child of a weaver were born tonight in the same moment. What would be the disparity between the death of any human creature who was serviceable to, or beloved by, another, while this abandoned woman lived on!

From the outside of his home he gloomily passed to the inside with suspended breath and with a slow footstep. He went up to his door opened it and so into the room.

Quiet and peace was there. Rachael was there, sitting by the bed.

She turned her head, and the light of her face shone in upon the midnight of his mind. She sat by the bed watching and tending his wife. That is to say, he saw that someone lay there and knew too good that it must be she. However, Rachael’s hands had put a curtain up, so that she was screened from his eyes. Her disgraceful garments were removed, and some of Rachael’s were in the room. Everything was in it’s place and order as he had always kept it. The little fire was newly trimmed, and the hearth was freshly swept. It appeared to him that he saw all this in Rachael’s face. While looking at it, it was shut out from his view by the softened tears that filled his eyes; however, this was not before he had seen how earnestly she looked at him, and how her own eyes were filled too.

Based on the remarks made in the surrounding context, what is the author inferring in the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

Death is perhaps the worst of all events.

Many people meet unfair deaths.

Death is the most lamentable of all things.

Death occurs to people in a manner completely independent of circumstances.

Correct answer:

Death occurs to people in a manner completely independent of circumstances.

Explanation:

Later in the paragraph, the author remarks that even the weaver's son and the king share equally in being born at the same moment in time. However, death pays heed to nothing. The beloved (and presumably happy) person can die, while the miserable person lives on in misery.

Example Question #5 : Analyzing Effectiveness

Baseball has a much higher Latino representation in America than basketball and football, which I like, as the son of Dominican immigrants. It is also a relatively inexpensive sport to play, unlike ice hockey and golf, so I was able to play baseball when I was younger, even though my parents didn't have much money. I also like watching baseball live because the laid-back atmosphere of games. Eating ice cream from a miniature helmet while watching the game live is pretty awesome too!

What is the author's argument in this paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Baseball has helped people immigrate from the Dominican Republic.

Basketball, football, ice hockey, and golf are boring.

Baseball should be more like other sports.

Baseball is an all-around good sport.

Baseball stadiums serve the best food of all the major sports.

Correct answer:

Baseball is an all-around good sport.

Explanation:

All of the sentences describe aspects of baseball that the author considers to be positive characteristics of the sport. While some of the other choices may be true or could be the opinion of the author, none are the author's central argument.

Example Question #6 : Analyzing Effectiveness

"Lincoln as a Child" by Caleb Zimmerman (2013)

 Abraham Lincoln's forefathers were pioneers. People that left their homes to open up the wilderness and make the way clear for others to follow them. For one hundred and seventy years, ever since the first Lincoln came from England to Massachusetts in 1638, he had been moving slowly westward as new settlements were made in the forest. They faced solitude, privation, and all the dangers and hardships that beset those who take up their homes where only beasts and wild men have had homes before; but they continued to press steadily forward, though they lost fortune and sometimes even life itself in their westward progress.

Back in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, some of the Lincolns had been people of wealth and influence. In Kentucky, where the future President was born on February 12, 1809, his parents live in deep poverty. Their home was a small log cabin of the rudest kind, and nothing seemed more unlikely than that their child, coming into the world in such humble surroundings, was destined to be the greatest man of his time and true to his heritage, he also was to be a pioneer—not into new woods and unexplored fields like his ancestors, but a pioneer of a nobler and grander sort, directing the thoughts of people ever toward the right, and leading the American people, through difficulties and dangers and a mighty war, to peace and freedom.

The author wants to rephrase the last phrase of his essay (the bolded portion) to make it flow more smoothly. Which of the following best accomplishes this?

Possible Answers:

Keep it like it is

Switch it around to say “peace and freedom, toward difficulties, dangers, and a mighty war”

Replace it with “difficulties, dangers, and a mighty war, toward peace and freedom”

Replace it with “difficulties and dangers and a mighty war and peace and freedom”

Correct answer:

Replace it with “difficulties, dangers, and a mighty war, toward peace and freedom”

Explanation:

“Difficulties, dangers, and a mighty war, toward peace and freedom” is the best answer because it is in the most logical order and eliminates the overuse of the word "and" to make the sentence flow smoothly. 

Example Question #7 : Analyzing Effectiveness

"A Unique Journey" by Jasmine Tilley (2013)

While I was studying abroad in Europe, I had the great opportunity to travel to different countries. For one of my adventures, I chose to travel to Switzerland; however, the classmates I usually traveled with were unable to come with me. I was faced in deciding whether to go alone or not at all. This decision was easy for me, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to see Switzerland!

I first had to board a train from where I was staying in Italy to reach the southern part of Switzerland. Unfortunately, the train workers were on strike that day, so I ended up delayed in Milan for several hours. Soon enough I was on my way again.  However, shortly after I reached the Switzerland border, the train stopped because one of the cars was filled with smoke! I still have no idea what happened, but after a few minutes we were moving again.

Once I finally reached Geneva, I had to walk to find the hostel where I was staying that I had booked. It was night, and I realized that I was truly alone. I did not know another soul in this entire country! This thought was both scary and exciting.

The next day, I walked all around Geneva. Being my own tour guide was a fantastic adventure. I saw all the major sites while also experiencing the culture. There was some sort of marathon going on that day, and there was so much excitement all throughout the city. There were live bands. It even rained off and on. Everything was new and interesting, and I loved it.

That evening, I boarded a train to Zermatt. Prior to this journey, I had no idea that the Matterhorn was an actual mountain! The city of Zermatt was very tiny and had no cars, only small electric vehicles that resembled wind-up toys. The whole city was lit up, and though I was walking to my hostel at night again, I felt very safe. Walking through Geneva at night, though, starkly contrasted it.

The next day, I decided to go skiing on the beautiful, snowy mountains in Zermatt. I rented a pair of skis and spent a few hours skiing in my jeans and coat! It was an amazing experience.

My journey to Switzerland is dear to me not just because of the many beautiful and exciting things I experienced, but also because I was alone. I had the time as well as the quiet atmosphere to absorb and contemplate not just what was going on around me but also what was going on inside myself. I felt changed somehow. I felt stronger and more independent.

If the writer’s goal was to provide a detailed description of the cities in Switzerland she visited, has she accomplished this?

Possible Answers:

No, because the focus of the essay is on her specific experiences in each of the cities.

Yes, because she provides objective details that help the reader picture life in the cities.

Yes, because she describes specific characteristics of the cities.

No, because she is telling a fictional story with details that are non-descriptive.

Correct answer:

No, because the focus of the essay is on her specific experiences in each of the cities.

Explanation:

Although the writer does describe some characteristics of the cities, her main focus is on her own experience.

Example Question #8 : Analyzing Effectiveness

In 1929, E.F. Lindquist, a professor in the University of Iowa College of Education, began designing tests for the Iowa Academic Meet. The purpose of the meet was to identify exemplary high school students. Test-takers began with a first round of testing. This round occurred during the school day and covered ten core academic subjects. Students who scored well in the first round participated in district-level tests that were more difficult. High-scorers from the second round participated in a third round of testing. The top ten students in each subject area were rewarded with medals at a banquet. Although the test was a success, Lindquist wanted to reduce the competitive aspect of the test. To achieve this goal, Lindquist renamed the test the Iowa Every-Pupil Achievement Testing Program.

The tests popularity provided Lindquist with the opportunity to study how to best write, administer, and score a standardized test. However, Lindquist was not yet satisfied. He grew concerned that the test focused too much on rote memorization of content rather than on skill development. Lindquist began to work on a test for middle school students that would test skills. This test which was first administered in 1935 became known as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. In 1942, the Every-Pupil test is discontinued and replaced with the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. As Lindquist had hoped, this test focused on testing skills rather than pure content memorization.

By the late 1950s, Lindquist had gained significant renown in the world of standardized testing, so he became involved in the process of developing a college admissions testing program. Although the SAT had been a commonly used admissions test since 1926, it was primarily marketed in the northeast and used as an admissions test for universities in that region. Schools outside this area used a variety of different tests that covered different content and was administered at different times. This led to unreliable results.

In 1958, that a standardized, national test be developed was proposed by Lindquist. He also hoped that, unlike the SAT, the new test would measure academic achievement so that it could be used to gauge each student’s level of preparation for college-level work.

Lindquist and a man named Ted McCarrel began developing the new test. One of McCarrel's main jobs was contacting admissions officers and convincing schools to use the new test. However, like the SAT, the ACT began as a regional test. Unlike the SAT, however, it was primarily used in the Midwest. With time and effort, the test became more popular in other parts of the country.

In 1959, the ACT was administered for the first time. The test was similar to the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. It consisted of four parts; English, math, social studies, and natural science. The social studies and natural science portions required students to interpret readings from each field; thus, Lindquist was able to maintain his goal of testing skills rather than memorized facts. Students had forty-five minutes to complete each section of the test. The ACT quickly became a staple of the college admissions process. In the first year, 132,963 students took the test, and that number grew in subsequent years.

Today, many colleges and universities in the U.S. accept ACT results from students applying for admission. So, don't worry! I'm sure your college will accept it too!

If the author had intended to write an essay about the history of the SAT, would this essay fulfill that goal?

Possible Answers:

No, because the essay does not explain how the SAT is used today.

No, because the essay primarily addresses the ACT, and the SAT is only mentioned briefly.

Yes, because the passage mentions that the SAT was first used in 1926.

Yes, because the essay discusses all the tests that have been used for college admissions in the past, including the SAT.

Yes, because the passage contrasts the SAT with the ACT.

Correct answer:

No, because the essay primarily addresses the ACT, and the SAT is only mentioned briefly.

Explanation:

While the passage does mention the SAT, the SAT is primarily discussed in terms of how it differs from the ACT. For example, the passage explains that the SAT was initially more popular in the northeast while the ACT was initially more popuular in the midwest. It is true that the passage states that the SAT was first used in 1926, but even with this detail, the SAT is not discussed in enough detail to fully explain the history of the SAT. Instead, the essay focuses on the history of the ACT.

The use of the SAT today is irrelevant to the focus of this esasy, which is the history of the ACT. Not all past college admissions tests are discussed, and even if they were, discussing more tests would not focus the essay on the history of the SAT.

Example Question #9 : Analyzing Effectiveness

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has become wide recognized as one of the most brilliant and influential musicians of all time. At only thirteen years old, he skillfully played several instruments and wrote in a variety of musical genres. Over the past century, his orchestral music, along with his many operas, have delighted audiences around the world. Mozart wrote his music for wealthy patrons and aristocrats, yet even the commoners of the time enjoyed his music. The music of Mozart is richer and more textured than his contemporary, Joseph Haydn.  

The Austro-Turkish War, which began in 1787, prompted the redirection of much of Austria’s resources from arts and music to the military. As a result, Mozart faced financial difficulties. In 1788, he discontinued his public concerts and his income declined. In 1790, hoping to improve his financial situation and circumstances, Mozart toured Berlin and several other cities in Germany. The tours were unsuccessful, however, and did not improve his financial problems.

Scholars have proposed several hypotheses regarding the cause of Mozart’s death, such as influenza, smallpox and meningitisTheir is little physical evidence, however, to support these claims. Mozart's funeral belied the elaborate ornamentation of his music: the ceremony was basic and reserved. In the period following his death, Mozart’s popularity increased significantly. Concert halls throughout Europe featured his music, and composers sought to imitate his style. Modern audiences praise Mozart’s music for its liveliness, expressiveness, and the fact that it is sophisticated.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

so

and

because

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The author mentions two facts: 1) that Mozart wrote his music for the rich and 2) that  the poor enjoyed his music as well. The second fact contrasts with an expectation set up by the first.

The most logical way to connect the two facts is with a contrastive word such as "but" or "yet."

The answer choices "because," "so," and "and" fail to convey this contrast.

 

Example Question #10 : Analyzing Effectiveness

"The Election of 1800" by Alec Slatky (2013)

The presidential election of 1800 was an unusual and unique contest in American history. The opponents were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson former friends who became rivals. Jefferson had actually been Vice President under Adams, but had not supported the latter’s policies. Jefferson leapt at the chance to unseat his former boss. Adams, too, would have enjoyed spending time on his farm more than dealing with political acrimony. Accordingly, he was too prideful to willingly relinquish his office. So, the two men who were most qualified for the position but least excited to have such a stressful job became the presidential candidates.

The campaign was a bitter partisan one and included numerous personal attacks. Critics called Jefferson a Democratic-Republican radical, he would lead the country down the bloody path of the French Revolution. Jefferson’s allies fired back, painting Adams as an anti-liberty autocrat. Adams was from Massachusetts. Adams even faced opposition from some extremists among his fellow Federalists and thus lacked the party unity required to win the election.

In the end, Jefferson emerged victorious, winning 73 of the 138 electoral votes. Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated as President, and Aaron Burr was inaugurated as Vice President. The election was a milestone in American history: it was the first that shifted control of the White House to a different party, the first with a modern mudslinging campaign, and the first that truly tested whether the new nation would remain united despite all its divisions.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

OMIT the underlined section.

NO CHANGE

Adams was originally from Massachusetts, though he resided in Washington, D.C.

Even today, the state of Massachusetts is proud to have been the birthplace of John Adams.

Massachusetts was the birthplace and residence of John Adams.

Correct answer:

OMIT the underlined section.

Explanation:

OMIT is correct because the other three choices are not relevant to the discussion of the campaign.

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