ACT Reading : Comparing and Contrasting Ideas in Social Science or History Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

This is an excerpt from A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa, but Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America, Related by Himself by Venture Smith (1798)

But Captain Hart was a white gentleman, and I a poor African, and therefore it was all right, and good enough for the black dog. I am now sixty nine years old. Though once straight and tall, measuring without shoes six feet one inch and an half, and every way well proportioned, I am now bowed down with age and hardship. My strength which was once equal if not superior to any man whom I have ever seen, is now enfeebled so that life is a burden, and it is with fatigue that I can walk a couple of miles, stooping over my staff. Other griefs are still behind; on account of which some aged people, at least, will pity me. My eyesight has gradually failed, till I am almost blind, and whenever I go abroad one of my grandchildren must direct my way; besides for many years I have been much pained and troubled with an ulcer on one of my legs. But amidst all my griefs and pains, I have many consolations; Meg, the wife of my youth, whom I married for love, and bought with my money, is still alive. My freedom is a privilege which nothing else can equal. Notwithstanding all the losses I have suffered by fire, by the injustice of knaves, by the cruelty and oppression of false-hearted friends, and the perfidy of my own countrymen whom I have assisted and redeemed from bondage, I am no possessed of more than two hundred acres of land, and three habitable dwelling houses. I gives me joy to think that I have and that I deserve so good a character, especially for truth and integrity.

Given the nature of the passage, it is most likely which kind of story?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

A memoir

A novel

A bildungsroman 

A eulogy 

Correct answer:

A memoir

Explanation:

The speaker identifies himself as a person with particular experiences, using the “I” to clarify his position. Though he could be writing fiction, given the tone of the passage it seems more likely this text serves as his memoir.

Example Question #2 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

This is an excerpt from A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa, but Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America, Related by Himself by Venture Smith (1798)

But Captain Hart was a white gentleman, and I a poor African, and therefore it was all right, and good enough for the black dog. I am now sixty nine years old. Though once straight and tall, measuring without shoes six feet one inch and an half, and every way well proportioned, I am now bowed down with age and hardship. My strength which was once equal if not superior to any man whom I have ever seen, is now enfeebled so that life is a burden, and it is with fatigue that I can walk a couple of miles, stooping over my staff. Other griefs are still behind; on account of which some aged people, at least, will pity me. My eyesight has gradually failed, till I am almost blind, and whenever I go abroad one of my grandchildren must direct my way; besides for many years I have been much pained and troubled with an ulcer on one of my legs. But amidst all my griefs and pains, I have many consolations; Meg, the wife of my youth, whom I married for love, and bought with my money, is still alive. My freedom is a privilege which nothing else can equal. Notwithstanding all the losses I have suffered by fire, by the injustice of knaves, by the cruelty and oppression of false-hearted friends, and the perfidy of my own countrymen whom I have assisted and redeemed from bondage, I am no possessed of more than two hundred acres of land, and three habitable dwelling houses. I gives me joy to think that I have and that I deserve so good a character, especially for truth and integrity.

The passage is written in which narrative style?

Possible Answers:

First person

Third person 

None of the other answers

Second person

First-person omniscient 

Correct answer:

First person

Explanation:

The use of “I” that is limited to the speaker’s immediate surroundings categorizes the passage as first person. The speaker does not have an understanding of all the events or ideas surrounding him; therefore, it is not an omniscient narrative.

Example Question #3 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

This is an excerpt from A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa, but Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America, Related by Himself by Venture Smith (1798)

But Captain Hart was a white gentleman, and I a poor African, and therefore it was all right, and good enough for the black dog. I am now sixty nine years old. Though once straight and tall, measuring without shoes six feet one inch and an half, and every way well proportioned, I am now bowed down with age and hardship. My strength which was once equal if not superior to any man whom I have ever seen, is now enfeebled so that life is a burden, and it is with fatigue that I can walk a couple of miles, stooping over my staff. Other griefs are still behind; on account of which some aged people, at least, will pity me. My eyesight has gradually failed, till I am almost blind, and whenever I go abroad one of my grandchildren must direct my way; besides for many years I have been much pained and troubled with an ulcer on one of my legs. But amidst all my griefs and pains, I have many consolations; Meg, the wife of my youth, whom I married for love, and bought with my money, is still alive. My freedom is a privilege which nothing else can equal. Notwithstanding all the losses I have suffered by fire, by the injustice of knaves, by the cruelty and oppression of false-hearted friends, and the perfidy of my own countrymen whom I have assisted and redeemed from bondage, I am no possessed of more than two hundred acres of land, and three habitable dwelling houses. I gives me joy to think that I have and that I deserve so good a character, especially for truth and integrity.

To be “bowed down with age and hardship” most closely means which of the following in context?

Possible Answers:

That being old is difficult

None of the other answers

One is tired from walking upright so many years

That age and the challenges of the speaker’s younger life have left him fatigued and bent over

That manual labor is a problem in society and makes all people feel they must walk bowed down

Correct answer:

That age and the challenges of the speaker’s younger life have left him fatigued and bent over

Explanation:

In reading the passage, we understand that the speaker is referring to the challenges of his life in particular; those challenges seem to include manual labor, bondage, suffering and overall disrespect. Given these facts, it is likely that the speaker is referring to his own fatigue from so many difficulties.

Example Question #4 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson (1743–1786)

The College of William and Mary is the only public seminary of learning in this state. It was founded in the time of King William and Queen Mary, who granted to it 20,000 acres of land, and a penny a pound duty on certain tobacco exported from Virginia and Maryland, which had been levied by the statute of 25 Car. 2. The assembly also gave it, by temporary laws, a duty on liquors imported, and skins and furs exported. From these resources it received upwards of 3000 l. communibus annis. The buildings are of brick, sufficient for an indifferent accommodation of perhaps an hundred students. By its charter it was to be under the government of twenty visitors, who were to be its legislators, and to have a president and six professors, who were incorporated. It was allowed a representative in the general assembly. Under this charter, a professorship of the Greek and Latin languages, a professorship of mathematics, one of moral philosophy, and two of divinity, were established. To these were annexed, for a sixth professorship, a considerable donation by Mr. Boyle of England, for the instruction of the Indians, and their conversion to Christianity. This was called the professorship of Brafferton, from an estate of that name in England, purchased with the monies given. The admission of the learners of Latin and Greek filled the college with children. This rendering it disagreeable and degrading to young gentlemen already prepared for entering on the sciences, they were discouraged from resorting to it, and thus the schools for mathematics and moral philosophy, which might have been of some service, became of very little. The revenues too were exhausted in accommodating those who came only to acquire the rudiments of science. After the present revolution, the visitors, having no power to change those circumstances in the constitution of the college which were fixed by the charter, and being therefore confined in the number of professorships, undertook to change the objects of the professorships. They excluded the two schools for divinity, and that for the Greek and Latin languages, and substituted others; so that at present they stand thus:

  • A Professorship for Law and Police
  • Anatomy and Medicine
  • Natural Philosophy and Mathematics
  • Moral Philosophy, the Law of Nature and Nations, the Fine Arts
  • Modern Languages
  • For the Brafferton

        And it is proposed, so soon as the legislature shall have leisure to take up this subject, to desire authority from them to increase the number of professorships, as well for the purpose of subdividing those already instituted, as of adding others for other branches of science.

The author’s tone can best be described as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

An unhappy resident of Virginia

Obsessed with his own self

Interested in conversion and assimilation

None of the other answers

Interested in taxonomies and classes

Correct answer:

Interested in taxonomies and classes

Explanation:

The author dedicates much of this excerpt to categorizing various parts of the college; this subject appears to be his primary focus.

Example Question #5 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson (1743–1786)

The College of William and Mary is the only public seminary of learning in this state. It was founded in the time of King William and Queen Mary, who granted to it 20,000 acres of land, and a penny a pound duty on certain tobacco exported from Virginia and Maryland, which had been levied by the statute of 25 Car. 2. The assembly also gave it, by temporary laws, a duty on liquors imported, and skins and furs exported. From these resources it received upwards of 3000 l. communibus annis. The buildings are of brick, sufficient for an indifferent accommodation of perhaps an hundred students. By its charter it was to be under the government of twenty visitors, who were to be its legislators, and to have a president and six professors, who were incorporated. It was allowed a representative in the general assembly. Under this charter, a professorship of the Greek and Latin languages, a professorship of mathematics, one of moral philosophy, and two of divinity, were established. To these were annexed, for a sixth professorship, a considerable donation by Mr. Boyle of England, for the instruction of the Indians, and their conversion to Christianity. This was called the professorship of Brafferton, from an estate of that name in England, purchased with the monies given. The admission of the learners of Latin and Greek filled the college with children. This rendering it disagreeable and degrading to young gentlemen already prepared for entering on the sciences, they were discouraged from resorting to it, and thus the schools for mathematics and moral philosophy, which might have been of some service, became of very little. The revenues too were exhausted in accommodating those who came only to acquire the rudiments of science. After the present revolution, the visitors, having no power to change those circumstances in the constitution of the college which were fixed by the charter, and being therefore confined in the number of professorships, undertook to change the objects of the professorships. They excluded the two schools for divinity, and that for the Greek and Latin languages, and substituted others; so that at present they stand thus:

  • A Professorship for Law and Police
  • Anatomy and Medicine
  • Natural Philosophy and Mathematics
  • Moral Philosophy, the Law of Nature and Nations, the Fine Arts
  • Modern Languages
  • For the Brafferton

        And it is proposed, so soon as the legislature shall have leisure to take up this subject, to desire authority from them to increase the number of professorships, as well for the purpose of subdividing those already instituted, as of adding others for other branches of science.

It seems likely that which of the following will follow this passage?

Possible Answers:

A history of tobacco production

A story of Jefferson’s experience as a student at William and Mary

A lamentation on Virginia’s unimpressive education system

None of the other answers

Descriptions of other schools or universities in Virginia

Correct answer:

Descriptions of other schools or universities in Virginia

Explanation:

Jefferson is interested in taxonomies; it is most likely that he will continue with information about other schools.

Example Question #6 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from The Declaration of Independence (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness—that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed—that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security—such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

The tone of this passage can best be described as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Uncertain

None of the other answers

Elated

Violent

Kindly

Correct answer:

None of the other answers

Explanation:

While there are moments of visible frustration throughout the passage, it cannot reasonably be described by any of the terms listed.

Example Question #7 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from The Declaration of Independence (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness—that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed—that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security—such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

To what does the following phrase refer? “[T]he separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them.”

Possible Answers:

That God and Nature entitle the colonies to have independence

None of the other answers

That God and Nature refuse to provide the colonies freedom

That there is no God or Nature

That God and Nature are amorphous and can’t be understood

Correct answer:

That God and Nature entitle the colonies to have independence

Explanation:

The colonies desire to be separate but equal in reference to their standing before God and Nature: equal England’s.

Example Question #8 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from The Declaration of Independence (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness—that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed—that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security—such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

Which of the following is one the problems the King’s rule poses?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

Aggressiveness toward men

Stealing products

No social services

Unlimited immigration

Correct answer:

None of the other answers

Explanation:

None of these answers can be supported by the text; the King’s rule imposes none of them.

Example Question #9 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

This is an excerpt from The U.S. Constitution (1787)

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Why does the first section state that the people desire to change the status quo?

Possible Answers:

To fix the unions for businessmen

To herald the start of a new age

To make the American political scene better

 



To demonstrate against the King

None of the other answers

 

Correct answer:

To make the American political scene better

 



Explanation:

The text states “in order to form a more perfect union.” This quotation implies a better political situation for America.

Example Question #10 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

This is an excerpt from The U.S. Constitution (1787)

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Which of the following is NOT a reason cited in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Blessings of Liberty

Hope for posterity

Pursuit of liberty

Domestic tranquility

Common defense

Correct answer:

Pursuit of liberty

Explanation:

The text no where states “pursuit of liberty” as a reason.

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