ACT Reading : Comparing and Contrasting Ideas 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 #574 : Sat Critical Reading

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.

According to the author, studying phobias, obsessions, and delusions is __________, but studying dreams is not.

Possible Answers:

possible

practical

wasteful

easy

useless

Correct answer:

practical

Explanation:

The author makes this comparison in the first paragraph when he says, “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.” Here, the author claims that studying phobias, obsessions, and delusions is practical, whereas studying dreams is “of theoretical value.”

Example Question #1 : Literary Devices And Diction

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.

When he states that “Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise,” the author means __________.

Possible Answers:

government should treat everyone in the same way

palaces and fancy clothing are expensive luxuries

people judge each other about their opinions on governmental issues just like they judge each others’ clothing

government is necessary because people are imperfect

governments change as quickly as fashionable styles of clothing

Correct answer:

government is necessary because people are imperfect

Explanation:

This is a tricky question that requires you to grasp the subtle meaning in the author’s comparison. He is comparing government to “dress” (fashion) and saying that both are “the badge of lost innocence.” By “badge” he means outward sign or indicator, and in order to lose something, you have to have been in possession of it initially. So, the author is saying that government and dress demonstrate that innocence has been lost.  Going on, the author states, “the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise.” Considering the surrounding context of this phrase may also be helpful in determining its meaning; after the indicated quotation, the author states, “For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver . . .” In combination with the idea of “lost innocence,” this indicates that in making his comparison, the author means to indicate that government is necessary because people are imperfect.

Example Question #21 : Drawing Evidence From Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from The Extermination of the American Bison by William T. Hornaday (1889)

We come now to a history which I would gladly leave unwritten. Its record is a disgrace to the American people in general, and the Territorial, State, and General Government in particular. It will cause succeeding generations to regard us as being possessed of the leading characteristics of the beast of prey—cruelty and greed. We will be likened to the blood-thirsty tiger of the Indian jungle, who slaughters a dozen bullocks at once when he knows he can eat only one.

The men who killed buffaloes for their tongues and those who shot them from the railway trains for sport were murderers. In no way does civilized man so quickly revert to his former state as when he is alone with the beasts of the field. Give him a gun and something which he may kill without getting himself in trouble, and, presto! He is instantly a killer again, finding exquisite delight in bloodshed, slaughter, and death, if not for gain, then solely for the joy and happiness of it. There is no kind of warfare against game animals too unfair, too disreputable, or too mean for white men to engage in if they can only do so with safety to their own precious carcasses. They will shoot buffalo and antelope from running railway trains, drive deer into water with hounds and cut their throats in cold blood, kill does with fawns a week old, kill fawns by the score for their spotted skins, slaughter deer, moose, and caribou in the snow at a pitiful disadvantage, just as the wolves do; exterminate the wild ducks on the whole Atlantic seaboard with punt guns for the metropolitan markets; kill off the Rocky Mountain goats for hides worth only 50 cents apiece, destroy wagon loads of trout with dynamite, and so on to the end of the chapter.

Perhaps the most gigantic task ever undertaken on this continent in the line of game-slaughter was the extermination of the bison in the great pasture region by the hide-hunters. Probably the brilliant rapidity and success with which that lofty undertaking was accomplished was a matter of surprise even to those who participated in it. The story of the slaughter is by no means a long one.

The period of systematic slaughter of the bison naturally begins with the first organized efforts in that direction, in a business-like, wholesale way. Although the species had been steadily driven westward for a hundred years by the advancing settlements, and had during all that time been hunted for the meat and robes it yielded, its extermination did not begin in earnest until 1820, or thereabouts. As before stated, various persons had previous to that time made buffalo killing a business in order to sell their skins, but such instances were very exceptional. By that time the bison was totally extinct in all the region lying east of the Mississippi River except a portion of Wisconsin, where it survived until about 1830. In 1820 the first organized buffalo hunting expedition on a grand scale was made from the Red River settlement, Manitoba, in which five hundred and forty carts proceeded to the range. Previous to that time the buffaloes were found near enough to the settlements around Fort Garry that every settler could hunt independently; but as the herds were driven farther and farther away, it required an organized effort and a long journey to reach them.

The American Fur Company established trading posts along the Missouri River, one at the mouth of the Teton River and another at the mouth of the Yellowstone. In 1826 a post was established at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, at the head of the Arkansas River, and in 1832 another was located in a corresponding situation at the head of the South Fork of the Platte, close to where Denver now stands. Both the latter were on what was then the western border of the buffalo range. Elsewhere throughout the buffalo country there were numerous other posts, always situated as near as possible to the best hunting ground, and at the same time where they would be most accessible to the hunters, both white and Native American.

According to the passage's fourth paragraph, how would one accurately describe the population of buffalo east of the Mississippi River around 1820?

Possible Answers:

Overly plentiful

Rare

Extinct

Common

Almost completely extinct

Correct answer:

Almost completely extinct

Explanation:

In the fourth paragraph, the author writes that the extermination of the buffalo "did not begin in earnest until 1820, or thereabouts," and then later adds,"By that time the bison was totally extinct in all the region lying east of the Mississippi River except a portion of Wisconsin, where it survived until about 1830." So, because the bison was "totally extinct" with the exception of a single area in Wisconsin, the best answer is "almost completely extinct."

Example Question #575 : Sat Critical Reading

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.

It is easier to observe the division of labor in small industries than in large ones because __________.

Possible Answers:

in small industries, all of the different types of workers can be seen in one place, but in large industries, this is not possible

small industries require one person to perform many specific types of work, whereas large industries require a worker to perform only one type of work

small industries have less funding than large industries, meaning that each worker has to perform all of the tasks involved in manufacturing a product

small industries require more distinct kinds of tasks to be performed in manufacturing an item than large industries do

Correct answer:

in small industries, all of the different types of workers can be seen in one place, but in large industries, this is not possible

Explanation:

The passage directly states the answer in its second paragraph, when discussing how the division of labor is visible in large industries: “In those great manufactures . . . 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,” the author writes. So, the correct answer is “In small industries, all of the different types of workers can be seen in one place, but in large industries, this is not possible.”

This question may be particularly tough because some of the answers are true, such as “Small industries require one person to perform many specific types of work, whereas large industries require a worker to perform only one type of work;” however, we are not looking for the answer that is true, but the answer that is the reason why it is easier to observe the division of labor in small-scale industries rather than in large-scale ones.

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