ACT Reading : Analyzing Authorial Tone and Method in Social Science or History Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Textual Relationships In History Passages

Adapted from "Federalist No. 46. The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared" by James Madison in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

I proceed to inquire whether the federal government or the state governments will have the advantage with regard to the predilection and support of the people. Notwithstanding the different modes in which they are appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States. I assume this position here as it respects the first, reserving the proofs for another place. The federal and state governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject, and to have viewed these different establishments not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other. Truth, no less than decency, requires that the event in every case should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and sanction of their common constituents.

Which difference between federal and state governments is the author purposely not addressing in his argument?

Possible Answers:

The fact that both derive their authority from constituents

Their different powers and purposes

The different ways in which officials are elected

Their different constituents

The different sizes of their spheres of jurisdiction

Correct answer:

The different ways in which officials are elected

Explanation:

In the paragraph's second sentence, the author states, "Notwithstanding the different modes in which [the federal and state governments] are appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States." The introductory phrase that begins this sentence with "Notwithstanding" tells us that the author is ignoring the fact that the two different forms of government are appointed in different ways, so "The different ways in which officials are elected" is the correct answer.

Example Question #26 : Language In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from The Crisis by Carrie Chapman Catt (1916)

The war will soon end and the armies will return to their native lands. To many a family, the men will never come back. The husband, who returns to many a wife, will eat no bread the rest of his life save of her earning. What then, will happen after the war? Will the widows left with families to support cheerfully leave their well-paid posts for those commanding lower wages? Not without protest! Will the wives who now must support crippled husbands give up their skilled work and take up the occupations which were open to them before the war? Will they resignedly say: "The woman who has a healthy husband who can earn for her, has a right to tea and raisin cake, but the woman who earns for herself and a husband who has given his all to his country, must be content with tasteless bread?" Not without protest! On the contrary, the economic axiom, denied and evaded for centuries, will be blazoned on every factory, counting house and shop: "Equal pay for equal work"; and common justice will slowly, but surely enforce that law. The European woman has risen. She may not realize it yet, but the woman "doormat" in every land has unconsciously become a "door-jamb." She will have become accustomed to her new dignity by the time the men come home. She will wonder how she ever could have been content lying across the threshold now that she discovers the upright jamb gives so much broader and more normal a vision of things. The men returning may find the new order a bit queer but everything else will be strangely unfamiliar too, and they will soon grow accustomed to all the changes together. The "jamb" will never descend into a "doormat" again.

The male and female anti-suffragists of all lands will puff and blow at the economic change which will come to the women of Europe. They will declare it to be contrary to Nature and to God's plan and that somebody ought to do something about it. Suffragists will accept the change as the inevitable outcome of an unprecedented world's cataclysm over which no human agency had any control and will trust in God to adjust the altered circumstances to the eternal evolution of human society. They will remember that in the long run, all things work together for good, for progress and for human weal.

The economic change is bound to bring political liberty. From every land, there comes the expressed belief that the war will be followed by a mighty, oncoming wave of democracy for it is now well known that the conflict has been one of governments, of kings and czars, kaisers and emperors — not of peoples. The nations involved have nearly all declared that they are fighting to make an end of wars. New and higher ideals of governments and of the rights of the people under them, have grown enormously during the past two years. Another tide of political liberty, similar to that of 1848, but of a thousand-fold greater momentum, is rising from battlefield and hospital, from camp and munitions factory, from home and church which, great men of many lands, tell us, is destined to sweep over the world. On the continent, the women say, "It is certain that the vote will come to men and women after the war, perhaps not immediately but soon. In Great Britain, which was the storm centre of the suffrage movement for some years before the war, hundreds of bitter, active opponents have confessed their conversion on account of the war services of women. Already, three great provinces of Canada, Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, have given universal suffrage to their women in sheer generous appreciation of their war work.

In context, the description of woman as a “doormat” highlights pre-war male __________.

Possible Answers:

accountability

aggression

dominance

kindness

hysteria 

Correct answer:

dominance

Explanation:

The word “doormat” is employed by the author to demonstrate female subservience to men prior to the outbreak of World War One. Comparing a group of people to doormats is evocative imagery; it makes the reader think about how a doormat is used and how it might feel to be a human “doormat.” The change of women from something that is walked all over “a doormat” to something that stands up for itself “a door-jamb” highlights the shrinking male dominance over women and society.

Example Question #101 : Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from The Crisis by Carrie Chapman Catt (1916)

The war will soon end and the armies will return to their native lands. To many a family, the men will never come back. The husband, who returns to many a wife, will eat no bread the rest of his life save of her earning. What then, will happen after the war? Will the widows left with families to support cheerfully leave their well-paid posts for those commanding lower wages? Not without protest! Will the wives who now must support crippled husbands give up their skilled work and take up the occupations which were open to them before the war? Will they resignedly say: "The woman who has a healthy husband who can earn for her, has a right to tea and raisin cake, but the woman who earns for herself and a husband who has given his all to his country, must be content with tasteless bread?" Not without protest! On the contrary, the economic axiom, denied and evaded for centuries, will be blazoned on every factory, counting house and shop: "Equal pay for equal work"; and common justice will slowly, but surely enforce that law. The European woman has risen. She may not realize it yet, but the woman "doormat" in every land has unconsciously become a "door-jamb." She will have become accustomed to her new dignity by the time the men come home. She will wonder how she ever could have been content lying across the threshold now that she discovers the upright jamb gives so much broader and more normal a vision of things. The men returning may find the new order a bit queer but everything else will be strangely unfamiliar too, and they will soon grow accustomed to all the changes together. The "jamb" will never descend into a "doormat" again.

The male and female anti-suffragists of all lands will puff and blow at the economic change which will come to the women of Europe. They will declare it to be contrary to Nature and to God's plan and that somebody ought to do something about it. Suffragists will accept the change as the inevitable outcome of an unprecedented world's cataclysm over which no human agency had any control and will trust in God to adjust the altered circumstances to the eternal evolution of human society. They will remember that in the long run, all things work together for good, for progress and for human weal.

The economic change is bound to bring political liberty. From every land, there comes the expressed belief that the war will be followed by a mighty, oncoming wave of democracy for it is now well known that the conflict has been one of governments, of kings and czars, kaisers and emperors — not of peoples. The nations involved have nearly all declared that they are fighting to make an end of wars. New and higher ideals of governments and of the rights of the people under them, have grown enormously during the past two years. Another tide of political liberty, similar to that of 1848, but of a thousand-fold greater momentum, is rising from battlefield and hospital, from camp and munitions factory, from home and church which, great men of many lands, tell us, is destined to sweep over the world. On the continent, the women say, "It is certain that the vote will come to men and women after the war, perhaps not immediately but soon. In Great Britain, which was the storm centre of the suffrage movement for some years before the war, hundreds of bitter, active opponents have confessed their conversion on account of the war services of women. Already, three great provinces of Canada, Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, have given universal suffrage to their women in sheer generous appreciation of their war work.

The tone of this passage could best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

ambivalent and confused

somber and reserved

angry and spiteful

optimistic and resolute

dejected and pessimistic

Correct answer:

optimistic and resolute

Explanation:

Throughout this passage the author maintains a tone of confident optimism and determination. This can be evidenced by the author’s numerous mentions of the inevitability of the female suffrage movement. One such example is found where the author says: “They will remember that in the long run, all things work together for good, for progress and for human weal,” and “It is certain that the vote will come to men and women after the war, perhaps not immediately but soon.” The author also frequently employs words like “bound to” and “greater momentum” to contribute to the tone of optimism and resoluteness.

Example Question #712 : Ssat Upper Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from The Man with the Muck-Rake by Theodore Roosevelt (1906)

There are in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man, whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, business, or social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform or in a book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful.

The liar is no whit better than the thief, and if his mendacity takes the form of slander he may be worse than most thieves. It puts a premium upon knavery untruthfully to attack an honest man, or even with hysterical exaggeration to assail a bad man with untruth. An epidemic of indiscriminate assault upon character does no good, but very great harm. The soul of every scoundrel is gladdened whenever an honest man is assailed, or even when a scoundrel is untruthfully assailed.

The tone of this passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

angry and emotive

urgent and serious

apathetic and miserly

whimsical and sardonic

jubilant and celebratory

Correct answer:

urgent and serious

Explanation:

The overall tone of this passage is urgent and serious. This is clear throughout as the author employs several phrases to demonstrate the urgency and severity of the situation. Most obviously, and helpfully, the author uses the word “urgent.” The only other possible correct answer choice could be “angry and emotive.” However, the author uses very little angry or aggressive language and instead focuses on highlighting the seriousness of the situation.

Example Question #1 : Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Lucretia Mott; and others (1848)

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect 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 shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they 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 duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

The use of the word “patient” in the passage's last sentence is intended to highlight which aspect of women’s suffering?

Possible Answers:

Its solutions 

Its brevity 

Its length 

Its depth 

Its causes

Correct answer:

Its length 

Explanation:

The use of the word “patient” is meant to evoke a feeling in the reader that women have suffered for a long time. In order to be patient one must experience something dissatisfactory for an extensive period of time. For the sake of clarity, brevity means something quick or brief.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Tone, Style, And Figurative Language In History Passages

Adapted from “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Lucretia Mott; and others (1848)

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect 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 shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they 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 duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

For what purpose does the author employ the language of the first few lines of the United States Constitution?

Possible Answers:

To distract from the main point

To chastise a group or an individual

To frame a new idea within the context of familiar language

To deny the relevance of an established authority

To establish an argument that will be later refuted

Correct answer:

To frame a new idea within the context of familiar language

Explanation:

You may have noticed that the author slightly manipulates the language of the Constitution. The Constitution states that “all men are created equal” and the author alters this to say “that all men and women are created equal.” The purpose of doing this is to contextualize a new idea within the framework of existing, and familiar, language. The author clearly feels that this will make her argument more evocative and relevant.

Example Question #1 : Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from Emancipation of the Working Class by Eugene Debs (1918)

To speak for labor; to plead the cause of the men and women and children who toil; to serve the working class, has always been to me a high privilege; a duty of love.

 I have just returned from a visit over yonder, where three of our most loyal comrades are paying the penalty for their devotion to the cause of the working class. They have come to realize, as many of us have, that it is extremely dangerous to exercise the constitutional right of free speech in a country fighting to make democracy safe in the world.

 I realize that, in speaking to you this afternoon, there are certain limitations placed upon the right of free speech. I must be exceedingly careful, prudent, as to what I say, and even more careful and prudent as to how I say it. I may not be able to say all I think; but I am not going to say anything that I do not think. I would rather a thousand times be a free soul in jail than to be a sycophant and coward in the streets. They may put those boys in jail—and some of the rest of us in jail—but they cannot put the Socialist movement in jail. Those prison bars separate their bodies from ours, but their souls are here this afternoon. They are simply paying the penalty that all men have paid in all the ages of history for standing erect, and for seeking to pave the way to better conditions for mankind. If it had not been for the men and women who, in the past, have had the moral courage to go to jail, we would still be in the jungles.

In context, the reference to “the jungles” conveys a sense of __________.

Possible Answers:

nostalgia 

malevolence

inadequacy

primitiveness

chaos 

Correct answer:

primitiveness

Explanation:

The author refers to the progression of man from “the jungle” to modern day as being the product of men who were willing to stand up and suffer for their beliefs. As the author is trying to emphasize the important of the men who make these sacrifices it stands to reason that he would wish to underline how far mankind has been brought along by the aforementioned men. Jungles, therefore, is intended to convey a sense of backwardness or primitiveness.

Example Question #2 : Specific Words In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from The Fundamental Principle of a Republic by Anna Howard Shaw (1915)

Never in the history of the world did it dawn upon the human mind as it dawned upon your ancestors, what it would mean for men to be free. They got the vision of a government in which the people would be the supreme power, and so inspired by this vision men wrote such documents as were went from the Massachusetts legislature, from the New York legislature and from the Pennsylvania group over to the Parliament of Great Britain, which rang with the profoundest measures of freedom and justice. They did not equivocate in a single word when they wrote the Declaration of Independence; no one can dream that these men had not got the most sublime ideal of democracy which had ever dawned upon the souls of men. But as soon as the war was over and our government was formed, instead of asking the question, who shall be the governing force in this great new Republic, they began to eliminate instead of include the men who should be the great governing forces, and they said, who shall have the voice in this great new Republic, and you would have supposed that such men as fought the Revolutionary War would have been able to answer that every man who has fought, everyone who has given up all he has and all he has been able to accumulate shall be free; but it never entered their minds.

These excellent ancestors of yours had not been away from the old world long enough to realize that man is of more value than his purse, so they said every man who has an estate in the government shall have a voice; and they said what shall that estate be? And they answered that a man who had property valued at two hundred and fifty dollars will be able to cast a vote, and so they sang "The land of the free and the home of the brave." And they wrote into their Constitution, "All males who pay taxes on $250 shall cast a vote," and they called themselves a Republic, and we call ourselves a Republic, and they were not quite so much of a Republic that we should be called a Republic yet. Now what did we do? Before the word "male" in the local compacts, they wrote the word "Church-members"; and they wrote in the word "taxpayer." Then there arose a great Democrat, Thomas Jefferson, who looked down into the day when you and I are living and saw that the rapidly accumulated wealth in the hands of a few men would endanger the liberties of the people, and he knew what you and I know, that no power under heaven or among men is known in a Republic by which men can defend their liberties except by the power of the ballot, and so the Democratic party took another step in the evolution of the Republic out of a monarchy and they rubbed out the word "taxpayer" and wrote in the word "white", and then the Democrats thought the millennium had come, and they sang " The land of the free and the home of the brave" as lustily as the Republicans had sung it before them and spoke of the divine right of motherhood with the same thrill in their voices and at the same time they were selling mother's babies by the pound on the auction block-and mothers apart from their babies. Another arose who said a man is not a good citizen because he is white, he is a good citizen because he is a man, and the Republican party took out that progressive evolutionary eraser and rubbed out the word "white" from before the word "male' and could not think of another word to put in there- they were all in, black and white, rich and poor, wise and otherwise, drunk and sober; not a man left out to be put in, and so the Republicans could not write anything before the word "male", and they had to let the little word, "male" stay alone by itself.

In context, the reference to the “old world” conveys a sense of __________.

Possible Answers:

disgrace 

nostalgia 

backwardness

reverence 

implausibility

Correct answer:

backwardness

Explanation:

The reference to the “old world” is used by the author to highlight her perceived impression of the “excellent ancestors” as backward. “These excellent ancestors of yours had not been away from the old world long enough to realize that man is of more value than his purse, so they said every man who has an estate in the government shall have a voice.” The author discusses how they had been away from the old world “long enough to realize.” This suggests that the “excellent ancestors” were severely lacking in some viewpoint, and were therefore, backward.

Example Question #71 : Language In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from The Fundamental Principle of a Republic by Anna Howard Shaw (1915)

Never in the history of the world did it dawn upon the human mind as it dawned upon your ancestors, what it would mean for men to be free. They got the vision of a government in which the people would be the supreme power, and so inspired by this vision men wrote such documents as were went from the Massachusetts legislature, from the New York legislature and from the Pennsylvania group over to the Parliament of Great Britain, which rang with the profoundest measures of freedom and justice. They did not equivocate in a single word when they wrote the Declaration of Independence; no one can dream that these men had not got the most sublime ideal of democracy which had ever dawned upon the souls of men. But as soon as the war was over and our government was formed, instead of asking the question, who shall be the governing force in this great new Republic, they began to eliminate instead of include the men who should be the great governing forces, and they said, who shall have the voice in this great new Republic, and you would have supposed that such men as fought the Revolutionary War would have been able to answer that every man who has fought, everyone who has given up all he has and all he has been able to accumulate shall be free; but it never entered their minds.

These excellent ancestors of yours had not been away from the old world long enough to realize that man is of more value than his purse, so they said every man who has an estate in the government shall have a voice; and they said what shall that estate be? And they answered that a man who had property valued at two hundred and fifty dollars will be able to cast a vote, and so they sang "The land of the free and the home of the brave." And they wrote into their Constitution, "All males who pay taxes on $250 shall cast a vote," and they called themselves a Republic, and we call ourselves a Republic, and they were not quite so much of a Republic that we should be called a Republic yet. Now what did we do? Before the word "male" in the local compacts, they wrote the word "Church-members"; and they wrote in the word "taxpayer." Then there arose a great Democrat, Thomas Jefferson, who looked down into the day when you and I are living and saw that the rapidly accumulated wealth in the hands of a few men would endanger the liberties of the people, and he knew what you and I know, that no power under heaven or among men is known in a Republic by which men can defend their liberties except by the power of the ballot, and so the Democratic party took another step in the evolution of the Republic out of a monarchy and they rubbed out the word "taxpayer" and wrote in the word "white", and then the Democrats thought the millennium had come, and they sang " The land of the free and the home of the brave" as lustily as the Republicans had sung it before them and spoke of the divine right of motherhood with the same thrill in their voices and at the same time they were selling mother's babies by the pound on the auction block-and mothers apart from their babies. Another arose who said a man is not a good citizen because he is white, he is a good citizen because he is a man, and the Republican party took out that progressive evolutionary eraser and rubbed out the word "white" from before the word "male' and could not think of another word to put in there- they were all in, black and white, rich and poor, wise and otherwise, drunk and sober; not a man left out to be put in, and so the Republicans could not write anything before the word "male", and they had to let the little word, "male" stay alone by itself.

The references to "the land of the free and the home of the brave" are primarily __________.

Possible Answers:

jubilant

degrading 

whimsical 

sardonic 

respectful 

Correct answer:

sardonic 

Explanation:

The author uses the land of the free and the home of the brave to sarcastically comment on the self-glorification practiced by the Democrats and Republicans throughout history when they have loosened the requirements for political participation. It is clear that the author believes each inclusion did not go far enough and that the Democrats and Republicans gloried in something that was not yet worth glory. Evidence that supports this conclusion can be found where the author says that “The land of the free and the home of the brave" as lustily as the Republicans had sung it before them and spoke of the divine right of motherhood with the same thrill in their voices and at the same time they were selling mother's babies by the pound on the auction block-and mothers apart from their babies.”

Example Question #82 : Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from The War Message (1917) by Woodrow Wilson

On the third of February I officially laid before you the extraordinary announcement of the Imperial German Government that on and after the first day of February it was its purpose to put aside all restraints of law or of humanity and use its submarines to sink every vessel that sought to approach either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or the western coasts of Europe or any of the ports controlled by the enemies of Germany within the Mediterranean.

The new policy has swept every restriction aside. Vessels of every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo, their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the bottom: without warning and without thought of help or mercy for those on board, the vessels of friendly neutrals along with those of belligerents. Even hospital ships and ships carrying relief to the sorely bereaved and stricken people of Belgium have been sunk with the same reckless lack of compassion or of principle. I was for a little while unable to believe that such things would in fact be done by any government that had hitherto subscribed to the humane practices of civilized nations. International law had its origin in the attempt to set up some law which would be respected and observed upon the seas, where no nation had right of dominion and where lay the free highways of the world. The German Government has swept this aside under the plea of retaliation and necessity and because it had no weapons which it could use at sea except these which it is impossible to employ as it is employing them without throwing to the winds all scruples of humanity or of respect for the understandings that were supposed to underlie the intercourse of the world. I am not now thinking of the loss of property involved, immense and serious as that is, but only of the wanton and wholesale destruction of the lives of noncombatants, men, women, and children, engaged in pursuits which have always, even in the darkest periods of modern history, been deemed innocent and legitimate. Property can be paid for; the lives of peaceful and innocent people cannot be. The present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind.

It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no discrimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it. The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation. We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion.

The description of German sinking of hospital ships is intended to highlight the __________ of the German high command.

Possible Answers:

brutality 

confusion 

skepticism 

gregariousness

nonchalance

Correct answer:

brutality 

Explanation:

The author states that “even hospital ships and ships carrying relief to the sorely bereaved and stricken people of Belgium have been sunk with the same reckless lack of compassion or of principle.” From the characterization of the victims as “bereaved and sorely stricken” and the characterization of the action as showing a “reckless lack of compassion or principle” you can probably infer that this sentence is intended to highlight the brutality and lack of compassion of the German high command. Brutality is therefore the correct answer. Gregariousness means extroverted; skepticism means to doubt something; nonchalance refers to a casual manner.

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