HSPT Reading : Comparing and Contrasting in Social Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HSPT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting In Social Science Passages

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does the first half of this essay primarily differ from the second half?

Possible Answers:

The first half of the essay characterizes the common man as powerless, whereas the second half declares the common man to be immensely powerful.

The first half of the essay focuses on what was recent history to the author, whereas the second half of the essay is more concerned with ancient history.

The first half of the essay focuses on the effects of the clergy, whereas the second half focuses on the effects of royalty.

The first half of the essay discusses a general trend in society, whereas the second half applies that trend to a period of English history.

The first half of the essay discusses hypotheticals, whereas the second half of the essay makes a direct and literal argument.

Correct answer:

The first half of the essay discusses a general trend in society, whereas the second half applies that trend to a period of English history.


Some of these answer choices are partly true, such as that the focus changes slightly from the clergy to the royalty. However, this is an inadequate and incomplete answer choice. It is much more reasonable to say that “The first half of the essay discusses a general trend in society, the second half applies that trend to a period of English history.” The first half discusses how the competing orders of clergy, nobility, and royalty have accidentally aided the advancement of the people in their battle to ensure ultimate control. This is the general trend of social history that the author identifies. The second half applies this trend to the period of English history when the House of Commons was gaining rights for the common man at the expense of King Charles.

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