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

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store varsity tutors amazon store varsity tutors ibooks store

Example Questions

Example Question #31 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from On Liberty by J.S. Mill (1859)

The subject of this Essay is not the so-called Liberty of the Will, so unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine of Philosophical Necessity; but Civil, or Social Liberty: the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. A question seldom stated, and hardly ever discussed, in general terms, but which profoundly influences the practical controversies of the age by its latent presence, and is likely soon to make itself recognised as the vital question of the future. It is so far from being new, that in a certain sense, it has divided mankind, almost from the remotest ages; but in the stage of progress into which the more civilised portions of the species have now entered, it presents itself under new conditions, and requires a different and more fundamental treatment.

The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history with which we are earliest familiar, particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England. But in old times this contest was between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the government. By liberty, was meant protection against the tyranny of the political rulers. The rulers were conceived (except in some of the popular governments of Greece) as in a necessarily antagonistic position to the people whom they ruled. They consisted of a governing One, or a governing tribe or caste, who derived their authority from inheritance or conquest, who, at all events, did not hold it at the pleasure of the governed, and whose supremacy men did not venture, perhaps did not desire, to contest, whatever precautions might be taken against its oppressive exercise. Their power was regarded as necessary, but also as highly dangerous; as a weapon which they would attempt to use against their subjects, no less than against external enemies. To prevent the weaker members of the community from being preyed upon by innumerable vultures, it was needful that there should be an animal of prey stronger than the rest, commissioned to keep them down. But as the king of the vultures would be no less bent upon preying on the flock than any of the minor harpies, it was indispensable to be in a perpetual attitude of defence against his beak and claws. The aim, therefore, of patriots, was to set limits to the power which the ruler should be suffered to exercise over the community; and this limitation was what they meant by liberty.

Which of the following can be said about Mill?

Possible Answers:

He was interested in politics and authority.

He felt American society had too little emphasis on freedom.

He disliked stories.

He admired nonfiction.

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

He was interested in politics and authority.

Explanation:

The only evidence for any of these options is that Mill was interested in politics and authority—the subjects he is writing on here.

Example Question #32 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from On Liberty by J.S. Mill (1859)

The subject of this Essay is not the so-called Liberty of the Will, so unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine of Philosophical Necessity; but Civil, or Social Liberty: the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. A question seldom stated, and hardly ever discussed, in general terms, but which profoundly influences the practical controversies of the age by its latent presence, and is likely soon to make itself recognised as the vital question of the future. It is so far from being new, that in a certain sense, it has divided mankind, almost from the remotest ages; but in the stage of progress into which the more civilised portions of the species have now entered, it presents itself under new conditions, and requires a different and more fundamental treatment.

The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history with which we are earliest familiar, particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England. But in old times this contest was between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the government. By liberty, was meant protection against the tyranny of the political rulers. The rulers were conceived (except in some of the popular governments of Greece) as in a necessarily antagonistic position to the people whom they ruled. They consisted of a governing One, or a governing tribe or caste, who derived their authority from inheritance or conquest, who, at all events, did not hold it at the pleasure of the governed, and whose supremacy men did not venture, perhaps did not desire, to contest, whatever precautions might be taken against its oppressive exercise. Their power was regarded as necessary, but also as highly dangerous; as a weapon which they would attempt to use against their subjects, no less than against external enemies. To prevent the weaker members of the community from being preyed upon by innumerable vultures, it was needful that there should be an animal of prey stronger than the rest, commissioned to keep them down. But as the king of the vultures would be no less bent upon preying on the flock than any of the minor harpies, it was indispensable to be in a perpetual attitude of defence against his beak and claws. The aim, therefore, of patriots, was to set limits to the power which the ruler should be suffered to exercise over the community; and this limitation was what they meant by liberty.

How was power thought of in governments in Rome, for instance?

Possible Answers:

As laudatory

None of the other answers

As potentially threatening and something to be feared

As emblematic of people’s feelings toward their children

As praiseworthy and correctly tyrannical

Correct answer:

As potentially threatening and something to be feared

Explanation:

The primary paragraph refers to the power in places like Rome as potentially problematic because it was derived from fear.

Example Question #31 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from On Liberty by J.S. Mill (1859)

The subject of this Essay is not the so-called Liberty of the Will, so unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine of Philosophical Necessity; but Civil, or Social Liberty: the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. A question seldom stated, and hardly ever discussed, in general terms, but which profoundly influences the practical controversies of the age by its latent presence, and is likely soon to make itself recognised as the vital question of the future. It is so far from being new, that in a certain sense, it has divided mankind, almost from the remotest ages; but in the stage of progress into which the more civilised portions of the species have now entered, it presents itself under new conditions, and requires a different and more fundamental treatment.

The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history with which we are earliest familiar, particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England. But in old times this contest was between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the government. By liberty, was meant protection against the tyranny of the political rulers. The rulers were conceived (except in some of the popular governments of Greece) as in a necessarily antagonistic position to the people whom they ruled. They consisted of a governing One, or a governing tribe or caste, who derived their authority from inheritance or conquest, who, at all events, did not hold it at the pleasure of the governed, and whose supremacy men did not venture, perhaps did not desire, to contest, whatever precautions might be taken against its oppressive exercise. Their power was regarded as necessary, but also as highly dangerous; as a weapon which they would attempt to use against their subjects, no less than against external enemies. To prevent the weaker members of the community from being preyed upon by innumerable vultures, it was needful that there should be an animal of prey stronger than the rest, commissioned to keep them down. But as the king of the vultures would be no less bent upon preying on the flock than any of the minor harpies, it was indispensable to be in a perpetual attitude of defence against his beak and claws. The aim, therefore, of patriots, was to set limits to the power which the ruler should be suffered to exercise over the community; and this limitation was what they meant by liberty.

This excerpt can be described as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

A political treatise

An epic

None of the other answers

A personal essay

A novel

Correct answer:

A political treatise

Explanation:

The subjects indicate that this excerpt is a political treatise; there is no evidence to support any of the other options.

Example Question #32 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)

It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town—or travel in the country—when they see the streets, roads, and cabin doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for alms. These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn into thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain—or sell themselves to the Barbados.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of children in the arms, on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers—and frequently of their fathers—is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the commonwealth would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

My intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true that a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner as—instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives—they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands. 

What is the author describing in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Wealth

Poverty

Fervent belief systems

A ruling class

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

Poverty

Explanation:

The author is describing poverty, evinced in the words he uses, such as "alms," and the person he is describing, who must "beg sustenance."

Example Question #35 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)

It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town—or travel in the country—when they see the streets, roads, and cabin doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for alms. These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn into thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain—or sell themselves to the Barbados.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of children in the arms, on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers—and frequently of their fathers—is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the commonwealth would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

My intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true that a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner as—instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives—they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands.

Which rhetorical device is being used in this selection from the passage?

"These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn into thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain—or sell themselves to the Barbados."

Possible Answers:

Alliteration

Metonymy

Hyperbole 

Simile 

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

Hyperbole 

Explanation:

Hyperbole is an example of exaggeration; the examples of Barbadoes is an an exaggeration in this text.

Example Question #33 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)

It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town—or travel in the country—when they see the streets, roads, and cabin doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for alms. These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn into thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain—or sell themselves to the Barbados.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of children in the arms, on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers—and frequently of their fathers—is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the commonwealth would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

My intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true that a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner as—instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives—they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands.

What "subject" is the author referring to in the final paragraph?

Possible Answers:

How to handle faith and belief in God

How to handle impoverished children

How to handle his own mother

Something to do with maturity and age

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

How to handle impoverished children

Explanation:

The subject that the author is concerned with is the increase in impoverished children who "demand our charity."

Example Question #37 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)

It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town—or travel in the country—when they see the streets, roads, and cabin doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for alms. These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn into thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain—or sell themselves to the Barbados.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of children in the arms, on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers—and frequently of their fathers—is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the commonwealth would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

My intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true that a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner as—instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives—they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands.

What is the author alluding to in this selection from the passage?

"I propose to provide for them in such a manner as—instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives—they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands."

Possible Answers:

A solution to the hunger and poverty problem

A solution for his frustrations with his family

A solution to his troubles

Something to do with children

A solution to the problems in America

Correct answer:

A solution to the hunger and poverty problem

Explanation:

The author is proposing a solution to poverty and hunger.

Example Question #34 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (trans. 1903)

I have entered upon a performance which is without example, whose accomplishment will have no imitator. I mean to present my fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man shall be myself.

I know my heart, and have studied mankind; I am not made like any one I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature did wisely in breaking the mould with which she formed me, can only be determined after having read this work.

Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I. With equal freedom and veracity have I related what was laudable or wicked, I have concealed no crimes, added no virtues; and if I have sometimes introduced superfluous ornament, it was merely to occupy a void occasioned by defect of memory: I may have supposed that certain, which I only knew to be probable, but have never asserted as truth, a conscious falsehood. Such as I was, I have declared myself; sometimes vile and despicable, at others, virtuous, generous and sublime; even as thou hast read my inmost soul: Power eternal! assemble round thy throne an innumerable throng of my fellow-mortals, let them listen to my confessions, let them blush at my depravity, let them tremble at my sufferings; let each in his turn expose with equal sincerity the failings, the wanderings of his heart, and, if he dare, aver, I was better than that man.

I was born at Geneva, in 1712, son of Isaac Rousseau and Susannah Bernard, citizens. My father's share of a moderate competency, which was divided among fifteen children, being very trivial, his business of a watchmaker (in which he had the reputation of great ingenuity) was his only dependence. My mother's circumstances were more affluent; she was daughter of a Mons. Bernard, minister, and possessed a considerable share of modesty and beauty; indeed, my father found some difficulty in obtaining her hand.

What kind of text is this?

Possible Answers:

Short story

Fable

None of the other answers

Autobiography

Epic 

Correct answer:

Autobiography

Explanation:

The passage is written from a first person perspective and concerns the author's own life, so one can assume that it is drawn from an autobiography.

Example Question #46 : Phrase Usage

Adapted from Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (trans. 1903)

I have entered upon a performance which is without example, whose accomplishment will have no imitator. I mean to present my fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man shall be myself.

I know my heart, and have studied mankind; I am not made like any one I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature did wisely in breaking the mould with which she formed me, can only be determined after having read this work.

Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I. With equal freedom and veracity have I related what was laudable or wicked, I have concealed no crimes, added no virtues; and if I have sometimes introduced superfluous ornament, it was merely to occupy a void occasioned by defect of memory: I may have supposed that certain, which I only knew to be probable, but have never asserted as truth, a conscious falsehood. Such as I was, I have declared myself; sometimes vile and despicable, at others, virtuous, generous and sublime; even as thou hast read my inmost soul: Power eternal! assemble round thy throne an innumerable throng of my fellow-mortals, let them listen to my confessions, let them blush at my depravity, let them tremble at my sufferings; let each in his turn expose with equal sincerity the failings, the wanderings of his heart, and, if he dare, aver, I was better than that man.

I was born at Geneva, in 1712, son of Isaac Rousseau and Susannah Bernard, citizens. My father's share of a moderate competency, which was divided among fifteen children, being very trivial, his business of a watchmaker (in which he had the reputation of great ingenuity) was his only dependence. My mother's circumstances were more affluent; she was daughter of a Mons. Bernard, minister, and possessed a considerable share of modesty and beauty; indeed, my father found some difficulty in obtaining her hand.

Which of the following best paraphrases the underlined portion of the passage?

Possible Answers:

The author has not been perfect, and no one should trust him.

The author doesn't expect his readers to be interested in his life story.

The author has not been perfect, but thinks that his readers have lived similar lives.

None of the other answers

The author has led what he considers to be a near-perfect life, and thinks he is better than most people.

Correct answer:

The author has not been perfect, but thinks that his readers have lived similar lives.

Explanation:

In the underlined portion of the text, the author claims that he was "sometimes vile and despicable," and "at [other times], virtuous, generous and sublime." So, the author is not claiming to be perfect, but admits that he has sometimes been "vile and despicable." Later on in the underlined portion of the passage, he says, "let [other people] listen to my confessions, let them blush at my depravity, let them tremble at my sufferings; let each in his turn expose with equal sincerity the failings, the wanderings of his heart, and, if he dare, aver, I was better than that man." In other words, the author is inviting other people to claim that they are better than him, or have made fewer mistakes. This suggests that he doesn't think that he has led a life that much worse than anyone else's, and that he believes that his readers have not lived perfect lives either. Nothing about the passage suggests that the author is untrustworthy, so "The author has not been perfect, but he doesn't think his readers have either" is the correct answer. As far as other potential answer choices, no evidence is offered to suggest that the author expects his reader to be bored with his life story, and he certainly does not claim to have lived a perfect life. 

Example Question #35 : Comparing And Contrasting Ideas In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (trans. 1903)

I have entered upon a performance which is without example, whose accomplishment will have no imitator. I mean to present my fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man shall be myself.

I know my heart, and have studied mankind; I am not made like any one I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature did wisely in breaking the mould with which she formed me, can only be determined after having read this work.

Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I. With equal freedom and veracity have I related what was laudable or wicked, I have concealed no crimes, added no virtues; and if I have sometimes introduced superfluous ornament, it was merely to occupy a void occasioned by defect of memory: I may have supposed that certain, which I only knew to be probable, but have never asserted as truth, a conscious falsehood. Such as I was, I have declared myself; sometimes vile and despicable, at others, virtuous, generous and sublime; even as thou hast read my inmost soul: Power eternal! assemble round thy throne an innumerable throng of my fellow-mortals, let them listen to my confessions, let them blush at my depravity, let them tremble at my sufferings; let each in his turn expose with equal sincerity the failings, the wanderings of his heart, and, if he dare, aver, I was better than that man.

I was born at Geneva, in 1712, son of Isaac Rousseau and Susannah Bernard, citizens. My father's share of a moderate competency, which was divided among fifteen children, being very trivial, his business of a watchmaker (in which he had the reputation of great ingenuity) was his only dependence. My mother's circumstances were more affluent; she was daughter of a Mons. Bernard, minister, and possessed a considerable share of modesty and beauty; indeed, my father found some difficulty in obtaining her hand.

Which of the following claims about Rousseau is not supported by the passage?

Possible Answers:

He did not believe that people were perfect.

He felt strongly that his life might act as a model for others.

He had a close relationship with his wife and children.

He was interested in the influences a memoir can have on others.

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

He had a close relationship with his wife and children.

Explanation:

Nowhere in the passage is there mention made of Rousseau's wife and children, but the passage does contain evidence that points toward each of the other claims.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors