ACT Reading : Analyzing Sequence 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 #471 : Passage Based Questions

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 the introduction, the author emphasizes __________.

Possible Answers:

his personal relationship to the Socialist movement

the hardships faced by working men, women and children

the difficulty of the time he spent in prison

his failure to understand the repercussions of his life’s work

the temerity of the American government

Correct answer:

his personal relationship to the Socialist movement

Explanation:

In the first paragraph the author states that “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.” The correct answer is that the author is emphasizing his personal relationship with the Socialist movement. The use of the word “me” should provide a clue that the author is discussing something personal to him.

Example Question #21 : Analyzing Sequence In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776)

The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labor. The effects of the division of labor, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures. It is commonly supposed to be carried furthest in some very trifling ones; not perhaps that it really is carried further in them than in others of more importance, but in those trifling manufactures that are destined to supply the small wants of but a small number of people, the whole number of workmen must necessarily be small; and those employed in every different branch of the work can often be collected into the same workhouse, and placed at once under the view of the spectator.

In those great manufactures, on the contrary, which are destined to supply the great wants of the great body of the people, every different branch of the work employs so great a number of workmen that it is impossible to collect them all into the same workhouse. We can seldom see more, at one time, than those employed in one single branch. Though in such manufactures, therefore, the work may really be divided into a much greater number of parts, than in those of a more trifling nature, the division is not near so obvious, and has accordingly been much less observed.

To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture, but one in which the division of labor has been very often taken notice of: the trade of a pin-maker. A workman not educated to this business (which the division of labor has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labor has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them.

Which of the following best describes the structure of the passage?

Possible Answers:

The first paragraph contrasts large and small industries, the second paragraph continues that comparison, and the third paragraph provides an example.

The first paragraph provides an example, the second paragraph describes how this example applies to large industries, and the third paragraph describes how this example applies to small industries.

The first paragraph introduces the topic and describes small industries, the second paragraph contrasts large industries with small industries, and the final paragraph provides an example.

The first paragraph introduces the topic, the second paragraph describes and contrasts large and small industries, and the final paragraph provides an example of this contrast.

The first paragraph introduces the topic in theoretical terms, the second paragraph provides a concrete example, and the third paragraph compares and contrasts small and large industries.

Correct answer:

The first paragraph introduces the topic and describes small industries, the second paragraph contrasts large industries with small industries, and the final paragraph provides an example.

Explanation:

Questions that ask you to characterize the sequence of paragraphs in a passage like this may seem overwhelming, so it might be helpful to pause for a moment and consider what each paragraph accomplishes in the passage before considering the available answer choices. In this passage, the first paragraph introduces the topic of the division of labor and talks about how it is visible in small-scale industry. Then, the second paragraph contrasts how the division of labor is visible in large-scale industry with how it is visible in small-scale industry; we can tell that the author is contrasting these points because he begins the second paragraph by saying, “In those great manufactures, on the contrary . . . “ In the third paragraph, the author provides a concrete example; we can tell that he does this by the way he begins the paragraph: “To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture . . .” Based on this analysis, we can now narrow down the available answer choices and identify the correct one, “The first paragraph introduces the topic and describes small industries; the second paragraph contrasts large industries with small industries; and the final paragraph provides an example.” Some of the other answer choices attempt to confuse you by stating that the consideration of and contrast between small-scale and large-scale industries only occurs in the first or second paragraph, but considering the passage carefully will allow you to see that such consideration and comparison takes place in both paragraphs.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Sequence, Organization, And Structure In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln (1863)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The introduction presents __________.

Possible Answers:

a historical context 

speculation 

a scientific theory

an acknowledgement of the counterargument

an acknowledgement of the counterargument

an introductory aside

Correct answer:

a historical context 

Explanation:

The introduction puts the Civil War within the historical context of United States history. By referencing the birth of the nation the author is trying to link contemporary events with significant events in past in order that the audience might observe an unbroken chain of historical relation.

Example Question #71 : Passage Meaning And Construction

Adapted from “Introductory Remarks” in The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud (trans. 1913)

In attempting to discuss the interpretation of dreams, I do not believe that I have overstepped the bounds of neuropathological interest. For, when investigated psychologically, the dream proves to be the first link in a chain of abnormal psychic structures whose other links—the hysterical phobia, the obsession, and the delusion—must interest the physician for practical reasons. The dream can lay no claim to a corresponding practical significance; however, its theoretical value is very great, and one who cannot explain the origin of the content of dreams will strive in vain to understand phobias, obsessive and delusional ideas, and likewise their therapeutic importance.

While this relationship makes our subject important, it is responsible also for the deficiencies in this work. The surfaces of fracture, which will be frequently discussed, correspond to many points of contact where the problem of dream formation informs more comprehensive problems of psychopathology which cannot be discussed here. These larger issues will be elaborated upon in the future.

Peculiarities in the material I have used to elucidate the interpretation of dreams have rendered this publication difficult. The work itself will demonstrate why all dreams related in scientific literature or collected by others had to remain useless for my purpose. In choosing my examples, I had to limit myself to considering my own dreams and those of my patients who were under psychoanalytic treatment. I was restrained from utilizing material derived from my patients' dreams by the fact that during their treatment, the dream processes were subjected to an undesirable complication—the intermixture of neurotic characters. On the other hand, in discussing my own dreams, I was obliged to expose more of the intimacies of my psychic life than I should like, more so than generally falls to the task of an author who is not a poet but an investigator of nature. This was painful, but unavoidable; I had to put up with the inevitable in order to demonstrate the truth of my psychological results at all. To be sure, I disguised some of my indiscretions through omissions and substitutions, though I feel that these detract from the value of the examples in which they appear. I can only express the hope that the reader of this work, putting himself in my difficult position, will show patience, and also that anyone inclined to take offense at any of the reported dreams will concede freedom of thought at least to the dream life.

The author discusses a topic that he plans to pursue in future work __________.

Possible Answers:

nowhere in the passage

in the second paragraph of the passage

in the first sentence of the passage

in the last sentence of the passage

in the first and last paragraphs of the passage

Correct answer:

in the second paragraph of the passage

Explanation:

In the second paragraph of the passage, the author says, “The surfaces of fracture, which will be frequently discussed, correspond to many points of contact where the problem of dream formation informs more comprehensive problems of psychopathology which cannot be discussed here. These larger issues will be elaborated upon in the future.” This the only point in the passage where the author refers to the topic of future work, so “in the second paragraph of the passage” is the correct answer.

Example Question #81 : Passage Meaning And Construction

Adapted from Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776)

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil, in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence that in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. WHEREFORE, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others. 

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the Earth, unconnected with the rest; they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but ONE man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him from his work, and every different want call him a different way.

In the first paragraph, the author __________, whereas in the second paragraph, he _________.

Possible Answers:

describes the current state of society . . . contrasts that state of society with how society might be under an improved government

presents his thesis . . . addresses his critics

provides a counterargument to a commonly held position . . . argues there is no solution to the problem at hand

takes one position about an issue . . . changes his opinion and takes up the opposing position

makes an argument . . . provides an extended example supporting his argument

Correct answer:

makes an argument . . . provides an extended example supporting his argument

Explanation:

While topic sentences often provide a good indication of a paragraph’s function, the transition here is key in understanding what the author is doing. In the last sentence of the first paragraph, the author claims, “WHEREFORE, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.” So, he is saying that the best government is the one that is most likely to keep its citizens safe, and in doing so, he is making an argument. In the second paragraph, he begins, “In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose . . .” Now, at the end of the first paragraph, he just declared “security being the true design and end of government,” and now he is trying to “demonstrate” it in the second paragraph. The best answer is thus that the author makes an argument in the first paragraph and provides an extended example supporting his argument in the second paragraph.

Example Question #22 : Analyzing Sequence In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from Maria Montessori's Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook (1914).

Recent years have seen a remarkable improvement in the conditions of child life. In all civilized countries, but especially in England, statistics show a decrease in infant mortality.

Related to this decrease in mortality a corresponding improvement is to be seen in the physical development of children; they are physically finer and more vigorous. It has been the diffusion, the popularization of science, which has brought about such notable advantages. Mothers have learned to welcome the dictates of modern hygiene and to put them into practice in bringing up their children. Many new social institutions have sprung up and have been perfected with the object of assisting children and protecting them during the period of physical growth.

In this way what is practically a new race is coming into being, a race more highly developed, finer and more robust; a race which will be capable of offering resistance to insidious disease.

What has science done to effect this? Science has suggested for us certain very simple rules by which the child has been restored as nearly as possible to conditions of a natural life, and an order and a guiding law have been given to the functions of the body. For example, it is science which suggested maternal feeding, the abolition of swaddling clothes, baths, life in the open air, exercise, simple short clothing, quiet and plenty of sleep. Rules were also laid down for the measurement of food adapting it rationally to the physiological needs of the child’s life.

Yet with all this, science made no contribution that was entirely new. Mothers had always nursed their children, children had always been clothed, they had breathed and eaten before.

The point is, that the same physical acts which, performed blindly and without order, led to disease and death, when ordered rationally were the means of giving strength and life.

The great progress made may perhaps deceive us into thinking that everything possible has been done for children.

We have only to weigh the matter carefully, however, to reflect: Are our children only those healthy little bodies which to-day are growing and developing so vigorously under our eyes? Is their destiny fulfilled in the production of beautiful human bodies?

In that case there would be little difference between their lot and that of the animals which we raise that we may have good meat or beasts of burden.

Man’s destiny is evidently other than this, and the care due to the child covers a field wider than that which is considered by physical hygiene. The mother who has given her child his bath and sent him in his perambulator to the park has not fulfilled the mission of the “mother of humanity.” The hen which gathers her chickens together, and the cat which licks her kittens and lavishes on them such tender care, differ in no wise from the human mother in the services they render.

No, the human mother if reduced to such limits devotes herself in vain, feels that a higher aspiration has been stifled within her. She is yet the mother of man.

Children must grow not only in the body but in the spirit, and the mother longs to follow the mysterious spiritual journey of the beloved one who to-morrow will be the intelligent, divine creation, man.

Science evidently has not finished its progress. On the contrary, it has scarcely taken the first step in advance, for it has hitherto stopped at the welfare of the body. It must continue, however, to advance; on the same positive lines along which it has improved the health and saved the physical life of the children, it is bound in the future to benefit and to reenforce their inner life, which is the real human life. On the same positive lines science will proceed to direct the development of the intelligence, of character, and of those latent creative forces which lie hidden in the marvelous embryo of man’s spirit.

Montessori suggests that one difference between the way children were treated in the past and the way they are treated now is that __________.

Possible Answers:

in the past, children were usually treated like livestock or beasts of burden, but now they are treated like divine creations

in the past, mothers performed many of the same actions for their children as parents do now, but scientific knowledge provided explanation for what made these actions beneficial and allowed them to improve their efficacy

in the past, parents focused on developing the inner life of the children, but now scientific progress has reduced humanity to considering children like animals to be kept healthy 

in the past, mothers had nursed their children, but scientific advancements have made this unnecessary

in the past, the entire community took part in raising the child, whereas now, only a child's own mother is considered an appropriate caretaker

Correct answer:

in the past, mothers performed many of the same actions for their children as parents do now, but scientific knowledge provided explanation for what made these actions beneficial and allowed them to improve their efficacy

Explanation:

Montessori states that "Yet with all this, science made no contribution that was entirely new. Mothers had always nursed their children, children had always been clothed, they had breathed and eaten before. The point of this statement is that the same physical acts which, performed blindly and without order, led to disease and death, when ordered rationally were the means of giving strength and life."

In this section, she is saying that scientific advancements in childcare were not about telling parents to raise their children in entirely new ways, but rather to augment their knowledge of why actions were beneficial for their children, and thus to promote only healthy activities and discard unhealthy practices. The answer that most closely reflects this is "In the past, mothers performed many of the same actions for their children, but scientific knowledge provided explanation for what made these actions beneficial and allowed them to improve their efficacy."

Example Question #161 : Reading Comprehension

Adapted from The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776)

The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labor. The effects of the division of labor, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures. It is commonly supposed to be carried furthest in some very trifling ones; not perhaps that it really is carried further in them than in others of more importance, but in those trifling manufactures that are destined to supply the small wants of but a small number of people, the whole number of workmen must necessarily be small; and those employed in every different branch of the work can often be collected into the same workhouse, and placed at once under the view of the spectator.

In those great manufactures, on the contrary, which are destined to supply the great wants of the great body of the people, every different branch of the work employs so great a number of workmen that it is impossible to collect them all into the same workhouse. We can seldom see more, at one time, than those employed in one single branch. Though in such manufactures, therefore, the work may really be divided into a much greater number of parts, than in those of a more trifling nature, the division is not near so obvious, and has accordingly been much less observed.

To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture, but one in which the division of labor has been very often taken notice of: the trade of a pin-maker. A workman not educated to this business (which the division of labor has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labor has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them.

In every other art and manufacture, the effects of the division of labour are similar to what they are in this very trifling one; though, in many of them, the labour can neither be so much subdivided, nor reduced to so great a simplicity of operation. The division of labour, however, so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of the productive powers of labour. The separation of different trades and employments from one another, seems to have taken place, in consequence of this advantage.

Which of the following is the first step in making a pin, according to the author?

Possible Answers:

drawing out the wire.

pointing the wire.

cutting the wire.

grinding the top of the wire so that the pin-head will fit on it.

Correct answer:

drawing out the wire.

Explanation:

To correctly answer this question, you need to consider the third paragraph, specifically the part in which the author outlines the process of making a pin. The author begins discussing the specific tasks involved in pin-making by stating, “One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head.” While he continues after this, you can at this point tell that because the author begins by stating “One man draws out the wire” and because the sequence is related in a logical, step-by-step order, the correct answer is “drawing out the wire.”

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