HSPT Reading : Passage Reasoning in Social Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HSPT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #3 : Understanding The Content Of Social Science / History Passages

"The Sociology of Deviance" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

Sociologically, deviance is defined as behaviors or actions that violate informal or formal social sanctions. A formal social sanction is one set by a proper authority, such as a state or federal legislature. Formal laws and sanctions are often enforced and propagated by an official body or organization, such as police departments and court houses. Informal sanctions are known as "folkways" and "mores." Informal sanctions are not proposed as law and are enforced by informal means such as exclusion, avoidance, or negative sentiments. Deviance and the enforcement of social norms, both formal and informal, play important roles in the construction of society and its values.

Sociologist Emile Durkheim hypothesized that deviance is an important and necessary part of the organization of society. He stated that deviance performs the following functions: it affirms cultural norms, defines moral boundaries, strengthens society’s bonds through its enforcement, and advances social revolution. This is considered to be a structural-functionalist theory because it outlines deviance’s function in the structure and construction of society.

Robert Merton outlined deviance as the product of the interactions between an individual’s cultural goals and the means to obtain these goals as produced by society or institutions. Cultural goals can be described as financial success, acquisition of academic degrees, or the pursuit of "the American Dream." Institutionalized means are best described as society’s proposed paths to achieve cultural goals. Merton hypothesized that the acceptance or rejection of cultural goals and institutionalized means of achievement defined an individual’s level of deviance. Conformists accept cultural norms and institutionalized means while retreatists reject both norms and means. An innovator will accept cultural goals but reject the institutionalized means to obtain them. A ritualist will embrace the rules set forth by society but will lose sight of and reject cultural norms. Lastly, rebellious individuals will create a counter-culture that not only rejects a society's goals and means, but also creates new cultural norms and means to achieve these goals.

Deviance plays a role in society that has been studied by various sociologists. Some feel that it is a necessary element utilized in the structure and function of society, while others feel that it defines an individual’s outlook on societal norms and means of achievement. Deviance can be described as behavior that goes against the grain of conduct deemed acceptable by society. The phenomena that exist in its composition and purpose will continue to be studied by researchers in an effort to better understand society and culture.

Which of the following statements correctly describes structural-functionist theory as it is presented in the passage?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

Structural-functionist theory explores society through the observation of social conflicts.

Structural-functionist theory explores society through observing the symbolic interaction of cultural norms and individual definitions of societal phenomena.

Structural-function theory theorizes about society by building structural models meant to demonstrate the social function of various behaviors.

Structural-functionist theory explores society by observing societal structures and their functions within the organization and propogation of societal culture and norms.

Correct answer:

Structural-functionist theory explores society by observing societal structures and their functions within the organization and propogation of societal culture and norms.

Explanation:

Structural-functionist theory explores society by observing societal structures and their function within the organization and propogation of societal culture and norms. The second paragraph of the passage states that "structural-functionalist theory outlines deviance’s function in the structure and construction of society." This answer is very straightforward. A theory is structural-functionalist if it observes structures and their function within society.

Example Question #32 : Social Science / History Passages

"The Sociology of Deviance" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

Sociologically, deviance is defined as behaviors or actions that violate informal or formal social sanctions. A formal social sanction is one set by a proper authority, such as a state or federal legislature. Formal laws and sanctions are often enforced and propagated by an official body or organization, such as police departments and court houses. Informal sanctions are known as "folkways" and "mores." Informal sanctions are not proposed as law and are enforced by informal means such as exclusion, avoidance, or negative sentiments. Deviance and the enforcement of social norms, both formal and informal, play important roles in the construction of society and its values.

Sociologist Emile Durkheim hypothesized that deviance is an important and necessary part of the organization of society. He stated that deviance performs the following functions: it affirms cultural norms, defines moral boundaries, strengthens society’s bonds through its enforcement, and advances social revolution. This is considered to be a structural-functionalist theory because it outlines deviance’s function in the structure and construction of society.

Robert Merton outlined deviance as the product of the interactions between an individual’s cultural goals and the means to obtain these goals as produced by society or institutions. Cultural goals can be described as financial success, acquisition of academic degrees, or the pursuit of "the American Dream." Institutionalized means are best described as society’s proposed paths to achieve cultural goals. Merton hypothesized that the acceptance or rejection of cultural goals and institutionalized means of achievement defined an individual’s level of deviance. Conformists accept cultural norms and institutionalized means while retreatists reject both norms and means. An innovator will accept cultural goals but reject the institutionalized means to obtain them. A ritualist will embrace the rules set forth by society but will lose sight of and reject cultural norms. Lastly, rebellious individuals will create a counter-culture that not only rejects a society's goals and means, but also creates new cultural norms and means to achieve these goals.

Deviance plays a role in society that has been studied by various sociologists. Some feel that it is a necessary element utilized in the structure and function of society, while others feel that it defines an individual’s outlook on societal norms and means of achievement. Deviance can be described as behavior that goes against the grain of conduct deemed acceptable by society. The phenomena that exist in its composition and purpose will continue to be studied by researchers in an effort to better understand society and culture.

"Folkways" and "mores" are best described as which of the following terms?

Possible Answers:

Laws

Theories

Felonies

Formal social sanctions

Informal social sanctions

Correct answer:

Informal social sanctions

Explanation:

In its first paragraph, the passage describes "folkways" and "mores" as informal social sanctions. These informal sanctions are enforced by informal means. They are not proposed laws set forth by government legislature.

Example Question #3 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Idea And Theme In Contemporary Life Passages

"Conservatism" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

In American politics, there is perhaps no word that is more over-simplified than “conservative.” Many people use this term as though it has a single meaning and expresses a single historical-political outlook. Nothing could be further from the truth. The development of American conservatism must be understood as a combination of a number of strands of ideology that often coexist with great tension and difficulty. Although there are many groups that are combined in this larger assortment, two examples will suffice to show the great diversity present in this seemingly simple group.

For instance, there are the “traditionalist conservatives,” who generally are concerned with preserving Western culture and tradition against the developments of modern thought and culture. In many ways, this type of conservatism is the most “conserving”; that is, traditionalists are primarily concerned with maintaining the “old order” of Western civilization and learning. Because of these concerns, the traditionalist conservatives are very wary of any kind of major governmental program that promises to bring a “new order” into existence. While not disagreeing with the idea of progress, these conservatives believe that any such changes should occur organically, in a natural manner over a period of years. 

On the other hand, there are also the “libertarians," who are often classed as “conservatives” as well. They are surprisingly different from the traditionalist conservatives. The libertarians are primarily concerned with maximizing freedom and limiting the role of government in individual lives. In many ways, they represent the kind of modern individualism disagreed with by the traditionalists.

These two opposed groups are able to come together in the general notion of “conservatism” because of their shared attitudes toward the government, particularly the federal government. The traditionalists wish to limit the role of the federal government out of a fear that it will ruin traditional culture through radically new plans and agendas. The libertarians seek to limit it out of a desire to give individual citizens maximum freedom of choice and action. While these two branches of “conservatism” are in many ways opposed to each other, they somehow manage to coexist along with many other positions that are all called “conservative” in spite of similarly striking differences.

Based on the author’s presentation, what is the attitude of traditionalist conservatives toward social progress?

Possible Answers:

They ignore it as a modern aberration.

They despise it because of their old-fashioned outlook.

They believe that it should happen gradually, not through revolutions or quick changes.

They forge alliances with libertarians to prevent it.

They always oppose it, particularly when presented with modern arguments.

Correct answer:

They believe that it should happen gradually, not through revolutions or quick changes.

Explanation:

The passage does not say that the traditionalist conservatives oppose progress and change. It only states that they believe that it should occur in an organic manner, gradually over time. The key sentence for this is, "While not disagreeing with the idea of progress, these conservatives believe that any such changes should occur organically, in a natural manner over a period of years."

Example Question #3 : Passage Reasoning In Social Science Passages

"Conservatism" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

In American politics, there is perhaps no word that is more over-simplified than “conservative.” Many people use this term as though it has a single meaning and expresses a single historical-political outlook. Nothing could be further from the truth. The development of American conservatism must be understood as a combination of a number of strands of ideology that often coexist with great tension and difficulty. Although there are many groups that are combined in this larger assortment, two examples will suffice to show the great diversity present in this seemingly simple group.

For instance, there are the “traditionalist conservatives,” who generally are concerned with preserving Western culture and tradition against the developments of modern thought and culture. In many ways, this type of conservatism is the most “conserving”; that is, traditionalists are primarily concerned with maintaining the “old order” of Western civilization and learning. Because of these concerns, the traditionalist conservatives are very wary of any kind of major governmental program that promises to bring a “new order” into existence. While not disagreeing with the idea of progress, these conservatives believe that any such changes should occur organically, in a natural manner over a period of years. 

On the other hand, there are also the “libertarians," who are often classed as “conservatives” as well. They are surprisingly different from the traditionalist conservatives. The libertarians are primarily concerned with maximizing freedom and limiting the role of government in individual lives. In many ways, they represent the kind of modern individualism disagreed with by the traditionalists.

These two opposed groups are able to come together in the general notion of “conservatism” because of their shared attitudes toward the government, particularly the federal government. The traditionalists wish to limit the role of the federal government out of a fear that it will ruin traditional culture through radically new plans and agendas. The libertarians seek to limit it out of a desire to give individual citizens maximum freedom of choice and action. While these two branches of “conservatism” are in many ways opposed to each other, they somehow manage to coexist along with many other positions that are all called “conservative” in spite of similarly striking differences.

Based on what the author has said, why might it be fair to say that traditionalist conservatives most closely deserve the title “conservative” in the strict sense of that word?

Possible Answers:

Because they have questioned the limitations of modernity

Because they ultimately have a sense for the importance of other kinds of conservation, like environmental conservation

Because they are concerned with preserving the "old order" of things

Because they have long celebrated the great poets of Western civilization

Because they have always opposed the libertarians

Correct answer:

Because they are concerned with preserving the "old order" of things

Explanation:

Although the author does state that the traditionalist conservatives question modernity, the key passage for this question is, "In many ways, this type of conservatism is the most 'conserving'; that is, traditionalists are primarily concerned with maintaining the 'old order' of Western civilization and learning." This sentence states that the traditionalist conservatives are primarily concerned with maintaining the "old order" of Western civilization—the "old order" of things. Because they wish to do this, it can fairly be said that they work to "conserve" something—as is implied by the word "conservative."

Example Question #1 : Passage Reasoning In Social Science Passages

"Conservatism" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

In American politics, there is perhaps no word that is more over-simplified than “conservative.” Many people use this term as though it has a single meaning and expresses a single historical-political outlook. Nothing could be further from the truth. The development of American conservatism must be understood as a combination of a number of strands of ideology that often coexist with great tension and difficulty. Although there are many groups that are combined in this larger assortment, two examples will suffice to show the great diversity present in this seemingly simple group.

For instance, there are the “traditionalist conservatives,” who generally are concerned with preserving Western culture and tradition against the developments of modern thought and culture. In many ways, this type of conservatism is the most “conserving”; that is, traditionalists are primarily concerned with maintaining the “old order” of Western civilization and learning. Because of these concerns, the traditionalist conservatives are very wary of any kind of major governmental program that promises to bring a “new order” into existence. While not disagreeing with the idea of progress, these conservatives believe that any such changes should occur organically, in a natural manner over a period of years. 

On the other hand, there are also the “libertarians," who are often classed as “conservatives” as well. They are surprisingly different from the traditionalist conservatives. The libertarians are primarily concerned with maximizing freedom and limiting the role of government in individual lives. In many ways, they represent the kind of modern individualism disagreed with by the traditionalists.

These two opposed groups are able to come together in the general notion of “conservatism” because of their shared attitudes toward the government, particularly the federal government. The traditionalists wish to limit the role of the federal government out of a fear that it will ruin traditional culture through radically new plans and agendas. The libertarians seek to limit it out of a desire to give individual citizens maximum freedom of choice and action. While these two branches of “conservatism” are in many ways opposed to each other, they somehow manage to coexist along with many other positions that are all called “conservative” in spite of similarly striking differences.

Why does the author conclude, “In many ways, [the libertarians] represent the kind of modern individualism disagreed with by the traditionalists.”

Possible Answers:

They so focus on individuals that they likely ignore tradition, which does not merely come from individuals.

Traditionalist conservatives oppose new initiatives in every form.

They regularly oppose the old culture as being something out of date.

Traditionalist conservatives oppose all forms of freedom as being mere chances for modern innovation.

They are all advocates of modernity and its changes.

Correct answer:

They so focus on individuals that they likely ignore tradition, which does not merely come from individuals.

Explanation:

The author does not say much about the libertarians, so let's pay close attention to what actually is said. The key sentence here is, "The libertarians are primarily concerned with maximizing freedom and limiting the role of government in individual lives." Now, it is said that the traditionalist conservatives do take issue with the role of government. However, they also are very concerned with preserving the "old order" and traditions of Western civilization. This sentence states that the libertarians are concerned with maximizing freedom—implying that this is individual freedom. This focus on individuals is very likely to overlook the role of tradition, which is passed from generation to generation, meaning that there is something more important than the individual alone.

Example Question #2 : Passage Reasoning In Social Science Passages

"Conservatism" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

In American politics, there is perhaps no word that is more over-simplified than “conservative.” Many people use this term as though it has a single meaning and expresses a single historical-political outlook. Nothing could be further from the truth. The development of American conservatism must be understood as a combination of a number of strands of ideology that often coexist with great tension and difficulty. Although there are many groups that are combined in this larger assortment, two examples will suffice to show the great diversity present in this seemingly simple group.

For instance, there are the “traditionalist conservatives,” who generally are concerned with preserving Western culture and tradition against the developments of modern thought and culture. In many ways, this type of conservatism is the most “conserving”; that is, traditionalists are primarily concerned with maintaining the “old order” of Western civilization and learning. Because of these concerns, the traditionalist conservatives are very wary of any kind of major governmental program that promises to bring a “new order” into existence. While not disagreeing with the idea of progress, these conservatives believe that any such changes should occur organically, in a natural manner over a period of years. 

On the other hand, there are also the “libertarians," who are often classed as “conservatives” as well. They are surprisingly different from the traditionalist conservatives. The libertarians are primarily concerned with maximizing freedom and limiting the role of government in individual lives. In many ways, they represent the kind of modern individualism disagreed with by the traditionalists.

These two opposed groups are able to come together in the general notion of “conservatism” because of their shared attitudes toward the government, particularly the federal government. The traditionalists wish to limit the role of the federal government out of a fear that it will ruin traditional culture through radically new plans and agendas. The libertarians seek to limit it out of a desire to give individual citizens maximum freedom of choice and action. While these two branches of “conservatism” are in many ways opposed to each other, they somehow manage to coexist along with many other positions that are all called “conservative” in spite of similarly striking differences.

Why does the author choose the two examples used in the selection?

Possible Answers:

In order to show the incoherence of the word "conservatism"

In order to provide a striking set of examples to support the passage's thesis

In order to present the stages of a progressive argument for the passage's thesis

In order to present a fact, followed by a counter-fact

In order to provide an exhaustive example of the divisions in conservatism

Correct answer:

In order to provide a striking set of examples to support the passage's thesis

Explanation:

The thesis of this passage is that the word "conservative" is used to describe a set of groups that are very different from each other. At the end of the first paragraph, the author states, "Although there are many groups that are combined in this larger assortment, two examples will suffice to show the great diversity present in this seemingly simple group." This is a clear statement of the reasoning behind the second and third paragraphs. They provide two very striking examples of the wide divergences in ideas accepted by people who call themselves "conservatives."

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Passage Logic, Genre, And Organization In History Passages

Adapted from "Address to the Court" by Eugene Debs (1918)

Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the form of our present government; that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believed in the change of both—but by perfectly peaceable and orderly means.

Let me call your attention to the fact this morning that in this system five percent of our people own and control two-thirds of our wealth; sixty-five percent of the people, embracing the working class who produce all wealth, have but five percent to show for it.

Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison. The choice has been deliberately made. I could not have done otherwise. I have no regret.

In the struggle, the unceasing struggle, between the toilers and producers and their exploiters, I have tried, as best I might, to serve those among whom I was born, with whom I expect to share my lot until the end of my days. I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and factories; I am thinking of the men in the mines and on the railroads; I am thinking of the women who, for a paltry wage, are compelled to work out their lives; of the little children, who in this system, are robbed of their childhood, and in their early, tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon, and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the machines while they themselves are being starved body and soul. I see them dwarfed, diseased, stunted, their little lives broken, and their hopes blasted, because in this high noon of our twentieth-century civilization money is still so much more important than human life. Gold is god and rules in the affairs of men.

The second paragraph is intended to highlight __________.

Possible Answers:

the hard working attitude of the American working class

the evils of American government

the disparity of wealth in America

the generosity of wealthy Americans

the need to raise the minimum wage

Correct answer:

the disparity of wealth in America

Explanation:

The second paragraph discusses how a small percentage of the American population owns a large proportion of the wealth; therefore, the correct answer is that the second paragraph is highlighting the disparity of wealthy in America.

Example Question #2 : Passage Reasoning In Social Science Passages

Adapted from "Address to the Court" by Eugene Debs (1918)

Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the form of our present government; that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believed in the change of both—but by perfectly peaceable and orderly means.

Let me call your attention to the fact this morning that in this system five percent of our people own and control two-thirds of our wealth; sixty-five percent of the people, embracing the working class who produce all wealth, have but five percent to show for it.

Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison. The choice has been deliberately made. I could not have done otherwise. I have no regret.

In the struggle, the unceasing struggle, between the toilers and producers and their exploiters, I have tried, as best I might, to serve those among whom I was born, with whom I expect to share my lot until the end of my days. I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and factories; I am thinking of the men in the mines and on the railroads; I am thinking of the women who, for a paltry wage, are compelled to work out their lives; of the little children, who in this system, are robbed of their childhood, and in their early, tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon, and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the machines while they themselves are being starved body and soul. I see them dwarfed, diseased, stunted, their little lives broken, and their hopes blasted, because in this high noon of our twentieth-century civilization money is still so much more important than human life. Gold is god and rules in the affairs of men.

The author’s description of working-class children (“I see them . . . hopes blasted.”) highlights __________.

Possible Answers:

the workability of the American economic system

the lack of accessible healthcare for working class children

the manageable conditions of the factories and mines

the immorality of the American government

the abuses committed by the industrialists

Correct answer:

the abuses committed by the industrialists

Explanation:

The author describes the experience of working class children in the following manner: “The little children, who in this system, are robbed of their childhood . . . there to feed the machines while they themselves are being starved body and soul. I see them dwarfed, diseased, stunted, their little lives broken, and their hopes blasted.” The intent here is to highlight the abuses committed on the children by the industrial class in order to reap large profits. You will notice that the children's suffering is the main focus of the quotation. The author employs evocative language to condemn the individuals responsible for causing the suffering.

Example Question #3 : Passage Reasoning In Social Science Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

For more than ten centuries, great struggles have been going on in society between the dominant orders and sects. The victories gained by the oppressed millions over their different masters, constitute what is called the progress of society. When any great order defended the cause of the people against the tyranny and selfishness of another order, then the people have advanced a step in civil and social freedom.

When feudalism weighed heavily upon the people, the clergy sought justice on their behalf. By the aid of the church, royalty also rose above feudalism, and aided the popular cause. The church, having gained the ascendency, sought then to enslave the kings of the earth. But royalty, borrowing help from humiliated nobles and from the people, became the dominant power in Europe.

In these struggles, the people acquired political importance. They had obtained a knowledge of their rights and of their strength; and they were determined to maintain them. They liked not the tyranny of either nobles, priests, or kings; but they bent all their energies to suppress the power of the latter, since the two former had been already humiliated.

The struggle of the people against royalty is preeminently the genius of the English Revolution. It is to be doubted whether any king could have resisted the storm of popular fury which hurled Charles from his throne. But no king could have managed worse than he; no king could be more unfortunately and unpropitiously placed, and his own imprudence and folly hastened the catastrophe.

The House of Commons, which had acquired great strength, spirit, and popularity during the reign of James, fully perceived the difficulties and necessities of Charles, but made no adequate or generous effort to relieve him from them. Some of the more turbulent rejoiced in them. They knew that kings, like other men, were selfish, and that it was not natural for people to part with their privileges and power without a struggle, even though this power was injurious to the interests of society. In the Middle Ages, barons, bishops, and popes had fought desperately in the struggle of classes; and it was only from their necessities that either kings or people had obtained what they demanded. King Charles, no more than Pope Boniface VIII, would surrender, as a boon to man, without compulsion, his supposed omnipotence.

The author primarily characterizes the clergy, nobility, and royalty as __________.

Possible Answers:

confused about how to maintain control over the common people

tools to be wielded by the common man

deliberate agents of social advancement throughout history

focused on keeping the common man oppressed

obsessed with possessing ultimate control over society

Correct answer:

obsessed with possessing ultimate control over society

Explanation:

It is true that the author characterizes these three groups as “agents of social advancement,” but the key word that renders that answer incorrect is “deliberate.” They were not trying to advance the status of the common man, according to the author; they were trying to gain and maintain their own power. The author spends much of the essay talking about how the various dominant orders tried to use the common man to preserve or establish their ultimate control over people. Therefore the best answer choice is that the clergy, nobility, and royalty are primarily characterized as “obsessed with possessing ultimate control over society.”

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