AP US Government : Separation of Powers

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP US Government

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Separation Of Powers

Which of these is not a check on the power of the Executive that is specified in the Constitution?

Possible Answers:

Congress can override a Presidential veto.

Congress must approve treaties with foreign nations.

All of these are checks on the power of the Executive.

The Supreme Court can declare Executive acts unconstitutional.

Congress can impeach a President.

Correct answer:

All of these are checks on the power of the Executive.

Explanation:

All of these powers are considered checks and balances provided, an attempt to prevent the Executive Branch from devolving into a tyrannical body. All of these powers have limits, in order to prevent tyranny from any of the other branches as well. This separation of powers, and checks and balances, is a fundamental concept of the United States Constitution and the Federal Republic system that prevails in America.

Example Question #2 : Separation Of Powers

Passage adapted from Baron de Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws (1748)

When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates [government officials], there can be no liberty; because apprehensions [fears] may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws to execute them in a tyrannical manner…

Given the passage provided, which solution would Baron de Montesquieu offer to avoid the enactment of tyrannical laws? 

Possible Answers:

Limiting natural laws

Granting freedom of speech

Reinstating absolute monarchies

Separating the branches of government

Correct answer:

Separating the branches of government

Explanation:

Montesquieu wrote about how to best organize government to avoid the abuse of power. His writings are the influence to separate our government into separate branches, each with its own responsibility and power to keep the others from becoming more powerful than the others. His thinking was inflential on, and largely in line, with many early constitutional thinkers, who focused on placing systems of checks and balances within the governmental framework they set up.

Example Question #3 : Separation Of Powers

What is the main purpose of auxiliary precautions?

Possible Answers:

Auxiliary precautions counterbalance majority ruling

Auxiliary precautions serve as a check on legislative decisions

Auxiliary precautions provide the structure of governmental institutions

Auxiliary precautions limit governmental power

Auxiliary precautions divide and separate power among government institutions

Correct answer:

Auxiliary precautions divide and separate power among government institutions

Explanation:

While auxiliary precautions do limit governmental power, there is a better answer available. The main purpose of auxiliary precautions is to divide and separate power among government institutions. They serve as a system of checks and balances to ensure that one branch of government does not attain too much power.

Example Question #4 : Separation Of Powers

According to the Constitution, who was given specific authority to declare war?

Possible Answers:

the Senate only

national convention

the Supreme Court

the President

Congress

Correct answer:

Congress

Explanation:

As part of the checks and balances and separation of powers, the Founders, wanted war-making decision making to rest with Congress, the body that represents the people. That way, war would not be waged at the whim of an executive.

Example Question #5 : Separation Of Powers

The Constitution gives the power over the nation’s armed forces to the

Possible Answers:

Congress

Supreme Court

Secretary of Defense

President

General of the Army

Correct answer:

President

Explanation:

As part of the separation of powers, ultimate authority over the military was to be given to the president. That way, the military would always be subordinated to civilian authority.

Example Question #6 : Separation Of Powers

Which clause provides that the Constitution shall be the supreme law of the land?

Possible Answers:

supremacy

full faith and credit

primary

necessary and process

due process

Correct answer:

supremacy

Explanation:

Article VI of the constitution outlines that the constitution, treaties made, and laws of congress shall be the supreme law of the land. This clause ensures that state and local governments recognize the supremacy of the constitution and national law.

Example Question #7 : Separation Of Powers

Which of the following is not one of Congress’s economic powers, as established by the Constitution?

Possible Answers:

The power to grant freedom to runaway slaves

The power to pass taxes

The power to manage interstate and international trade

The power to issue and value money

Correct answer:

The power to grant freedom to runaway slaves

Explanation:

Unfortunately, the Constitution upheld the practice of slavery. One of the key ways in which this was accomplished was the mandates placed on both Congress and the individual state governments to return any captured runaway slaves to their owners; granting freedom to a slave was seen as depriving the owner of the income that the slave’s labor would provide. The Constitution was especially concerned with creating and maintaining a strong national economy, and so Congress’s various economic powers were clearly defined within the document. Among other provisions, Congress was empowered to issue and value money, to pass taxes, to regulate interstate (between two or more states) and international commerce, to govern bankruptcy proceedings, to guard copyrights and patents, and to prosecute any counterfeiters and/or pirates.

Example Question #8 : Separation Of Powers

Which of the following officials hold office for life or until retirement?

Possible Answers:

Speaker of the House

The President

Supreme Court justice

Senator

Secretary of State

Correct answer:

Supreme Court justice

Explanation:

Supreme Court Justices are the only officials that serve for life. This was based on the idea that judicial decisions should be free of political influence, therefore a justice does not fear political reprisals for making controversial decisions.

Example Question #96 : Constitution And Government Foundations

Before the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified, how were senators selected?

Possible Answers:

By the president

By state governors

By state convention

Direct election

By state legislatures

Correct answer:

By state legislatures

Explanation:

The Senate was to be the house of wisdom. Therefore, the political elites of different states would choose among themselves who had the political capacity and experience to serve in the Senate.

Example Question #9 : Separation Of Powers

Which of the following is a congressional check on the president?

Possible Answers:

The speaker of the house can act as supreme military leader in cases of emergency

Congress can refuse to ratify treaties

Congress can nominate judges

Congress can declare laws unconstitutional

Congress can pardon persons convicted by federal courts

Correct answer:

Congress can refuse to ratify treaties

Explanation:

According to the constitution, the president has the power to negotiate treaties, but ultimately, they must be approved by the senate. Only the Supreme Court can declare laws unconstitutional and all other powers listed are reserved to the executive.

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