Praxis Middle School: Social Studies Ultimate Guide and Practice Test
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United States History
Short Content Essays
Praxis Middle School: Social Studies Quick Facts
The Praxis Middle School: Social Studies exam is designed to measure the skills and knowledge necessary for a beginning middle school social studies teacher.
The test is:
- computer based
- a two-part test
- Part A: 90 selected-response questions (2 hours)
- Part B: 3 constructed-response questions (30 minutes per essay)
The range of scores for the selected-response portion of the exam is 100-200, and you can recieve a 1-6 rating on each essay (see essay section for more information).
Scores are reported by ETS, but the minimum required score varies by state. You can find information on these requirements by test and state here: https://www.ets.org/praxis/institutions/scores/passing/.
You will receive a score report that details your performance compared to others who took the same test, as well as if you passed or failed based on the agency that your scores were reported to.
The pass rate percentage varies by state, but the median score of the Praxis Middle School: Social Studies exam is 161.
You can find a study plan here: https://www.ets.org/s/praxis/doc/studyplan_5089.docx . Use it to plan time to study each of the topics covered on this exam. You will want to plan to take the test a couple months after you register so that you have enough time to review all the topics covered.
What test takers wish they would’ve known:
- There is no penalty for answering incorrectly. If you don’t know the answer, guess.
- All questions ask about the subject in a straightforward manner; there are no trick questions.
- Skip questions that are particularly difficult; you can come back to them later.
Information and screenshots obtained from the ETS Praxis website: https://www.ets.org/praxis/prepare/materials/5089
United States History
The United States History content category has about 22 selected-response questions. These questions account for 19% of the entire exam.
This content category can be neatly divided into 2 sections:
- Chronological Developments
- Major Themes
So, let’s talk about the Chronological Developments section first.
This section tests your knowledge of all the noteable events and developments in the history of the United States, especially the cause and effect of those events and developments.
Let’s talk about some concepts that you will more than likely see on the test.
The term sectionalism refers to how people who live in “sections” or regions of the United States have different social, cultural, economic, and political ideas and perspectives.
Sectionalism began in the United States when the thirteen original colonies were broken into the New England, middle, and southern regions, but identities became even more different following the War of 1812. At this time, people and politicians from the northern region of the country began to strongly disagree and have a different perspective than people and politicians from the southern region of the United States, particularly on the institution of slavery. The result of sectionalism at that time was ultimately The Civil War.
Many Americans moved west during the time period following the Civil War and reconstruction. Americans in the west primarily worked in mines or farmed, and at that time, growing sectionalism between those living west of the Mississippi River and those living east of it began to grow due to different economic and political interests.
The New Deal
The New Deal was a series of programs, economic reforms, regulations, and public work projects put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to try and bring the United States out of the Great Depression. Roosevelt was a progressive who believed that society could improve when improvements were made to government regulations. Roosevelt’s New Deal was active from March 1933 to 1939 which marked the beginning of a new focus to defense and preparing for war.
The New Deal did not end the Depression, but it did help restore public confidence in the federal government and banks. The programs the New Deal put in place did bring relief to millions of Americans.
Roosevelt’s New Deal tried to fix:
- the sense of despair among the American people
- the collapse of America’s financial system
- the high unemployment rate
- the shrinking economy
Here are the major successes of the New Deal:
- It created a range of programs that helped lower the unemployment rate and create jobs for many unemployed Americans.
- Many beneficial public construction projects such as dams, parks, schools, libraries, and highways were built by Americans who needed work.
- It created Social Security which has become a necessity for many senior citizens living in America.
- Multiple laws, or acts, were put into place that more closely regulated banks and businesses. This helped the American people regain trust in these institutions.
Let’s talk about the failures of the New Deal:
- It did not end the Depression (World War II did), but it did lessen the worst effects.
- Some of the laws Roosevelt put into place were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The greatest impression the Depression and the New Deal left on the United States was a change in government philosophy. Until this time, it was largely accepted that Americans were “on their own” when it came to their well-being and prosperity; however, following the New Deal, Americans came to believe that the federal government has a duty to ensure the health of the United States’ economy, as well as the welfare of its citizens.
Spanish Colonies in North America
Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain in 1492 with a goal of finding a new trade route to Asia. Spain was a “super power” of Europe during the Age of Exploration and was competing with other European powers for global control.
Columbus first docked his ships in what is today the Bahamas and shared his discovery with the leaders of Spain. Columbus’ voyage was the first of many from Spain since Spanish leaders saw Columbus’ discovery as an opportunity for Spain to continue colonization and their pursuit of global dominance.
Spanish conquistadors (conquerors) conquered multiple North American civilizations, as well as claimed land for themselves and formed settlements with motivation from what is often referred to as “The three G’s:”
- Gold (claiming any riches acquired through conquests for Spain)
- Glory (taking over land to expand their empire)
- God (sending Catholic priests to spread Catholicism throughout conquered territories)
Here’s a basic timeline of Spanish colonization:
- 1519-1521: Present-day Mexico and the Aztec people were conquered by Hernando Cortes. Multiple missions were built with the intent to spread Catholicism throughout the world.
- 1528-1565: Multiple Spanish explorers (Cabeza de Vaca, Hernando de Soto, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, and more) traveled throughout North America (what is present day California, as well as the southwestern and southeastern United States) gathering information about the land, people, and potential benefits of that land for Spain.
- 1565: The first permanent North American settlement is settled by Spain at St. Augustine, Florida.
- 1573: Catholic priests arrive in Florida to build missions which went north up the coast of North America. Missions were spread from St. Augustine, Florida to what is present day North Carolina, and then southwest to present day Tallahassee, Florida.
- 1763: Spain trades Florida to Great Britain for Havana, Cuba.
- 1783: The Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution, returned all of Florida to Spanish control.
- 1821: Spain gives the United States control of Florida.
- 1824: Mexicans win their independence from Spain, and Spanish rule in North America comes to an end.
This section tests your knowledge of major themes in United States history, including but not limited to:
- Susan B. Anthony
- Robert LaFollete
Here are some concepts you should know.
What would become the United States of America was welcoming immigrants from primarily Europe who were seeking a better life. Spanish exploration sparked interest in North America and the vast and prosperous land it had to offer. Immigrants came during this time period for a few reasons:
- religious freedom
- the opportunity to own land and/or their own business
- indentured servitude to pay off debts or earn land
This time period is also marked by the beginning of slaves forcibly brought into what is today the United States from Africa and the Caribbean.
British colonies were thriving in North America, but due to this, Britain was losing many skilled workers who were looking for a better life in North America. Some members of British Parliament called for an end to immigration to colonies in North America.
America became, in Thomas Paine’s words, “the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe.”
- 3.9 million people were counted in the first census.
- The English were the largest group represented.
- 20% of the 3.9 million were of African descent.
Immigration was slow during the years directly following the American Revolution and through the War of 1812; however, by 1814, during a time of peace, European immigration (specifically, Great Britain and Ireland) resumed in large numbers.
During this time period, the slave trade was slowing, and the Industrial Revolution was beginning. This time period was marked by immigrants seeking:
- industrial jobs in northern factories, as well as jobs building the Transcontinental Railroad.
- gold- many immigrants from Europe and Asia came to California in search of gold.
- In 1882, congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which greatly restricted immigration from China.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Mexicans, Eastern European Jews, Russians, and Armenians were all seeking refuge from their war torn countries. At times, immigrants were welcomed in the United States with open arms (for example, when their service was needed in the Civil War or when the economy was strong); however, at other times (when jobs were hard to find), immigrants were cast out and treated with hostility for “stealing” jobs.
The early to mid 1900s were marked by the Depression, war, and immigrants seeking asylum.
- The development of the steam engine reduced the amount of time the trip from Europe to the United States took; this encouraged a large amount of immigrants to make a new life in the United States. Between 1880 and 1930, over 27 million people entered the United States.
- In the 1920s, a series of laws were passed to slow immigration; the Great Depression (1930) also slowed immigration considerably.
- During and following World War II, the United States was tasked with allowing or rejecting millions of war refugees seeking asylum. President Truman urged congress to allow refugees to enter the country. In 1948, hundreds of thousands of refugees were allowed entry.
- The trend of accepting refugees continued in the 1950s when tens of thousands of Hungarian refugees entered the United States.
In 1965, the Immigration and Naturalization Act became law, and immigration policies no longer favored western European immigrants.
- By 1970, Asian immigration rose greatly.
- United States’ immigration policy favored professionals who were usually the first in their families to come, and then, once successful in the United States, brought other members of their families.
- The 1980s-1990s were marked by a surge in illegal immigration; for the first time, illegal immigration became a hot political issue.
Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) was a crusader in the fight to gain women the right to vote (women’s suffrage movement) in the United States.
Susan B. Anthony impacted society by:
- dedicating her life’s work to fighting for equal rights, specifically for African Americans and women.
- co-founding the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA).
- leading the women’s suffrage movement for almost 50 years.
- presenting a bill to the US Congress in 1878 that gave women the right to vote. This bill later became the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920, and from that point forward, women had the right to vote.
Robert LaFollette was a Republican turned Progressive from Wisconsin who served as a member of the House of Representatives, the US Senate, and Governor of Wisconsin. He is considered to be one of the greatest US Senators to serve in the position.
Robert LaFollete impacted society in the United States by:
- fighting against and exposing political corruption and inequality.
- developing the “Wisconsin Idea” which secured the passage of several progressive reforms.
- helping pass several laws and reforms in the federal government.
- speaking out against the United States’ involvement in World War I. He believed war would ruin America’s reputation and that the United States should stay neutral.
- standing up for American taxpayers by fighting against corruption and special interests that big business had in Washington D.C.
And that’s some basic info about the United States History content category.
The World History content category has about 18 selected-response questions. These questions account for 15% of the entire exam.
This content category can be neatly divided into 2 sections:
- Chronological Developments
- Major Themes
So, let’s talk about the Chronological Developments section first.
This section tests your knowledge of all the noteable events and developments in the history of the world, especially the cause and effect of those events and developments.
Let’s take a look at some concepts that you definitely need to know for the test.
Roman Empire (27 BC- 476 AD)
Rome began as a Republic and was led by elected officials. Rome had laws, a constitution, and a balance of powers. This structure of government continued for hundreds of years, until Julius Caesar took over the Roman Republic as a dictator. Then a few years later, Caesar Augustus became the first Roman Emperor. Caesar’s rise to power marked the beginning of the Roman Empire.
At its peak, the Roman Empire (around 117 AD) included present day Italy, Spain, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, France, Southern Britain, and Northern Africa.
The Roman Empire declined due in large part to:
- attacks from multiple enemies (the greatest contributing factor to its fall)
- civil wars within the Roman Empire
- the large size of the Roman Empire that made it difficult to control
- a less dominant army
- corrupt political leaders and rulers
The Dark Ages began after the Western Roman Empire fell and would last until the Renaissance in Europe.
Many aspects of Western society have been influenced by Ancient Rome. Roman contributions include:
- Roman art had an impact on Western painting, sculpture, and architecture. The concept of putting pictures of leaders on money is a Roman idea.
- Many famous writers (Shakespeare, Robert Graves, Milton, Dante, James Joyce) were influenced by the Romans.
- Rome was responsible for spreading the Latin language which formed the basis of Western language (including English).
- Infrastructure/city planning
- Romans built advanced roads that considered drainage from rain water. They also used mile markers on their roads and had systems of underground pipes that supplied clean water. Romans also used parks, plazas, and public libraries. Roman cities were laid out in a grid structure, much like many Western cities today.
- Written law
- The basis of the US judicial system (a person is innocent until proven guilty) is derived from Roman ideals.
- Government and democracy
- The US system of checks and balances comes from Ancient Rome.
- The Romans spread Christianity (specifically Catholicism) throughout their empire. Eventually there would be a split between Eastern and Western Christians (which today are known as Eastern Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics).
The Renaissance was a period in Europe from the 14th to 17th century that was considered a “rebirth” of culture, art, politics, and economics.
Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages began. Part of the Middle Ages were referred to as the Dark Ages, because so many of the advancements the Romans made were lost.
The Renaissance brought Europe “out of the dark” and people once again were studying science, art, literature, and music.
Here are some causes of the Renaissance:
- the invention of the printing press
- Martin Luther’s writings
- the Medici family’s financial backing and support of the arts
- humanism (the belief that Latin and Greek classics were the best examples of morality)
Here are some effects of the Renaissance:
- criticism of the Catholic Church
- as people became more educated, they begin to question practices of the Catholic Church
- people began to use the press
- printed materials were distributed more than ever, so information reached more people
- trade began to increase throughout Italy/Europe
- people began to care about issues larger than themselves and think on a broader scale
Fundamentalism is an extremely conservative religious movement marked by the strict following of sacred texts. At one time, the fundamentalist movement referred to American protestants who followed Biblical scripture to an extreme. More recently, the term has been used to describe any religious movement that takes extreme and strict action to follow sacred texts. Fundamentalism usually rejects modern and progressive ways of thought and insists that traditional values be kept, at times going to extreme lengths to try and conserve traditional values.
Here are some examples of fundamentalism:
- Jewish fundamentalism
- Islamic fundamentalism or “Islamists”
- Well known in today’s world due to the rise of terrorism in the name of preserving fundamental Islamic beliefs. Again, this is extreme in nature and seperate from the religion of Islam. Islamists resent Western ideas and domination and fight against it.
- Sikh fundamentalism
- Hindu fundamentalism
This section tests your knowledge of major themes in world history including but not limited to:
- The United Nations
Here are some concepts you need to know.
Fascism is an extreme political ideology that places a strong emphasis on patriotism and nationalism. The ideology of fascism is that the state must gain glory through constant conquest and war. Fascists believe that the individual citizen has no value outside of his or her role in promoting the glory of the State.
Here are some characteristics of fascism:
- citizens have few freedoms
- citizens have no voice in their government
- the leader controls everything and becomes a symbol of the country
- the leader builds a police force and/or military to harshly punish citizens who disobey or criticize the government
Here are some examples of fascist leaders:
- Benito Mussolini (Italy)
- Adolf Hitler (Germany)
- Francisco Franco (Spain)
Communism and fascism can be confused at times, but the main difference is that communism is a system based around economic equality and promotes a classless society. Fascism is a nationalistic system that sets up strict class roles and is ruled by one all-powerful dictator.
The Middle Ages in Europe were marked by a period of time where strong leadership and governments were lacking. The system of feudalism was established to create more rules and order to society. In a feudalist system, different groups of people had specific responsibilities. Under this system, people gave kings and lords money and work in exchange for their protection.
Here is the feudalism structure:
- King/Queen: Owned all land which was broken up and given to others in exchange for military help. The land given out was called a fief. Fiefs varied in size.
- Vassal: Received land from the King or Queen. Vassals could include lords, barons, counts, or knights who fought for the lords. Vassals became lords to the people who worked on the land they were given.
- Serfs and Peasants: Serfs and peasants were at the bottom of the system, but made up the largest group of people. Some worked as farmers and others were given a trade by the noble. Serfs were required to remain on the land they were born on and had to ask the lord to leave, marry, or change jobs. Peasants had slightly more freedom and sometimes owned the land they worked. The majority of people were serfs.
The United Nations
The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that was founded following World War II in an effort to prevent future world wars. Currently, the UN has 193 Member States who send diplomats to headquarters in New York to meet and make decisions about global issues.
The goals of the United Nations include:
- keeping world peace
- resolving conflict between Member States
- improving living conditions for people throughout the world
The United Nations is broken into six separate divisions with various responsibilities. The UN also has “special agencies,” some of which include:
- United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
And that’s some basic info about the World History content category.
The Government/Civics content category has about 17 selected-response questions. These questions account for 14% of the entire exam.
This content category can be neatly divided into 2 sections:
- United States Government and Civics
- Comparative Government and International Relations
So, let’s talk about the United States Government and Civics section first.
United States Government and Civics
This section tests your knowledge of the United States’ government and the duties and rights of citizens.
Here are some concepts you need to know.
Popular sovereignty, or peoples’ rule, is the idea that the authority of a nation and its government are created and kept by the consent of the people through elected officials. Popular sovereignty is a concept that does not always align with political reality.
The United States was founded on popular sovereignty, the idea of which was spread widely by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract which highlighted the ideals of “general will.”
The Election Process
The United States is most commonly described as a representative/constitutional democracy. United States citizens (who are eligible) vote for representatives at the local, state, and federal level. Elections are held at different times for different offices, but it is important to specifically understand the presidential election process.
United States Presidential Election
- Primaries and Caucuses
Many people want to be president of the US, and each of them have an idea of how the government should work. People who have similar ideas usually join the same political party, and the first step in being elected president is to win the favor of their political party through the primary (state-wide) elections.
- National Conventions
Once all states have held their primary elections, a national convention is held in which a party’s nominee is announced publicly for the first time. During the convention, delegates for that party cast a vote for a candidate, and that person gets the party’s nomination. The chosen presidential candidate will also choose a running-mate (vice-president) at the convention. Once the convention is over, the general election process begins.
- General Election
During this time, chosen candidates will begin campaigning for president against the candidates from other parties. Candidates will travel the country speaking to as many voters as possible. Debates will also be held so that candidates can express their views to the country.
Voters will begin voting for the president by November of the election year. When voters vote for president, they are actually voting for electors. The electors are authorized members of an electoral college from each state who pledge to support the candidate whom voters in their state have voted for. There are instances where the candidate who receives the popular vote on election day does not become the president due to the next step in the process.
- Electoral College
The US president is actually elected by the Electoral College. The Electoral College will usually vote in December. The intent of the framers of the Constitution was to take public opinion into account, but to filter the choice for president through a group of wiser and more experienced people. Each state is given a certain number of electoral votes based on that state’s representation in Congress; therefore, states with a greater population will get more electoral votes. There are a total of 538 electoral votes, and the candidate who gets more than 270 is elected president.
Comparative Government and International Relations
This section tests your knowledge of different political systems and the relationships between those systems and economies.
Let’s look at some concepts you need to know.
The word “democracy” is rooted in Greek and when translated means “power to the people.” In a true democracy, citizens have the power to create laws and decide how to enforce them. Not all democracies are the same; however, the main principles are consistent in every form.
Here are the characteristics of democracy:
- Citizens rule
- Citizens share power and responsibilities to make decisions on the government. In the United States, citizens become eligible to vote and participate in the democratic process at the age of 18. The US is an indirect democracy, because voters elect representatives who speak on their behalf in the government.
- Majorities and minorities
- The majority rules within a democracy, but the minorities’ rights are not excluded. A democratic government works to create a balance between minority and majority interests. If a decision is made by the majority that negatively affects the rights of a minority of the people, the decision can be adjusted to be more fair to all citizens. To ensure this, the United States government is divided into three separate but equal branches. This ensures a system of checks and balances.
- The Principle of Protection
- A democracy works to maintain basic human rights that citizens have as outlined in a constitution or other written agreement. Basic rights include freedom of religion and speech, protection under the laws, a right to a fair trial, and privacy. Under the law, Americans are also protected from discrimination based on age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, political beliefs, race, religion, pregnancy, veteran status, and disabilities.
- Limiting Lawmakers
- A democratic government does not have specific power in one area. Power is shared among different branches of government. Each branch of government has a process by which they can balance one another. Also, representatives in different branches of government are subject to various term limits, and fair elections are held on a regular basis.
And that’s some basic info about the Government/Civics content category.
The Geography content category has about 17 selected-response questions. These questions account for 14% of the entire exam.
This content category can be neatly divided into 4 sections:
- Geographic Literacy
- Map Skills
- Physical Geography
- Human Geography
So, let’s talk about the Geographic Literacy section first.
This section tests your knowledge of basic geography concepts.
Let’s take a look at some concepts that you definitely need to know for the test.
Relative versus Absolute Location
Geographers describe the location of a place as either relative or absolute.
Absolute location describes the location of a place based on a specific and fixed point on earth. The location could be described using a physical address or latitude and longitude coordinates.
Relative location describes the position of a place based on its location related to other locations. For example, the Golden Gate Bridge is located 16 miles west of Oakland, California.
Relative location can be given in terms of distance, time to travel, or cost.
Sub-Saharan Africa refers geographically to the area of Africa that is south of the Sahara. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for the majority of the continent. The primary characteristics of sub-Saharan Africa are in contrast to Northern Africa which is part of the Arab League within the Arab world.
Let’s talk about the characteristics of sub-Saharan Africa.
Geographic regions are characterized by:
- Natural resources
Characteristics of a region will vary when natural resources, architecture, literature, art, customs, economics, transportation, and religion are considered.
Sub-Saharan Africa can be characterized by:
- Lake Volta (one of the largest human made lakes in the world)
- Lake Tangangyika (second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume)
- Lake Victoria (largest lake in Africa)
- Lake Chad
- The Great Rift Valley
- Congo River
- Zambezi River
- Niger River (main route in Western Africa)
- Ruwenzori Mountains (divides Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
- Kalahari Desert
- Sahara Desert (world’s largest desert)
- Most of sub-Saharan Africa is savanna, or grasslands, with scattered trees.
- Due to the size of the sub-Saharan region of Africa, climate is influenced mainly by the distance from a location to the equator and by the altitude of that location.
- Climate in this region can be temperate. Rainy and dry seasons alternate throughout the region, but precipitation is most consistent in humid forests.
- cocoa bean
- tropical fruit
This section tests your knowledge of the various types of maps and their features.
Here are some concepts you should know.
Types of Maps
There are seven main types of maps:
- Political Maps
The most common type of map. Political maps focus on boundaries, states, cities, and capitals, but show no topographical features.
- Physical Maps
Physical maps detail the physical landscape of a certain place. Physical maps show mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes. Elevation changes can be shown by a change in color. Only large cities will be shown on physical maps.
- Topographical Maps
Topographical maps are similar to physical maps, because they show physical features; however, topographical maps use contour lines instead of color to show a change in elevation/landscape. These maps are most commonly used by hikers and orienteers on trips.
- Climate Maps
Climate maps provide information about the climate of a particular area. They are usually separated by color based on average temperatures or climate regions.
- Economic/Resource Maps
Economic maps are used to track economic or natural resource activity in an area through a series of symbols, shapes, or colors.
- Road Maps
Road maps show major and minor roads, highways, cities, and interest points like parks and landmarks.
- Thematic Maps
Maps that do not fit into any of the previously listed types of maps. Thematic maps are commonly used during elections to show how different populations voted.
This section tests your knowledge of the physical features and processes of earth.
Check out these concepts.
The Rock Cycle
Rocks on earth are constantly changing through the rock cycle. During the rock cycle, molten rock from deep within the Earth will move, change, and make its way to the surface. Once the molten rock is released through volcanoes, it will harden, continue through the cycle, and eventually return below ground due to weathering, erosion, and deposition.
Rocks can be classified into three main groups based on how they form:
- Igneous rock: Igneous translates literally to “of fire” and is the type of rock that is formed when molten lava cools quickly and hardens on the surface (extrusive) or just below the surface (intrusive) of the earth. Igneous rock will usually appear glassy/smooth in texture or will be very rough with visible air bubbles due to how quickly it cools. Examples of igneous rock include obsidian, pumice, and granite.
- Sedimentary rock: Sedimentary rock is formed when broken down pieces of other rocks (sediments) or remains of animals (bones) collect in areas and are compacted and cemented together over thousands of years (lithification). Sedimentary rocks are formed in layers and many times contain fossils. Examples of sedimentary rock include sandstone, limestone, and shale.
- Metamorphic rock: Metamorphic rock is based in the root “morph” which means “to change.” Metamorphic rocks began as either sedimentary or igneous rock that worked its way below the surface of the earth. Pressure from the outermost layer of the earth and heat from the core of the earth turn sedimentary and igneous rock into metamorphic rock. Metamorphic rock will usually have crystals and/or bands. Examples of metamorphic rock include quartzite and marble.
This section tests your knowledge of culture, population patterns, migration, political geography, and human adaptation/behavior.
Let’s take a look at some concepts.
A population pyramid, also known as an Age & Sex Pyramid, displays population distribution in all age groups and in both sexes. The y-axis is used to list age groups, and the x-axis is used to plot population numbers.
Population pyramids are great for observing changes or differences in population patterns across countries or specific population groups.
The shape of the pattern is what is used to interpret the pyramid. For example, a pyramid that is very wide at the base but narrow at the top shows that a population has a high birth and death rate. A pyramid with a wide top but narrow base would suggest that a population is aging, but the birth rates are low.
Political geography studies the space of politics and the politics of space. This means that political geography studies how the political process is impacted by geographic location.
Political geography is organized into three groups:
- within nations
Political geography studies:
- local and national elections
- international relationships
- political structure
And that’s some basic info about the Geography content category.
The Economics content category has about 16 selected-response questions. These questions account for 13% of the entire exam.
This content category can be neatly divided into 3 sections:
- Microeconomics I
- Microeconomics II
- Macroeconomics I
So, let’s talk about the Microeconomics I section first.
This section tests your knowledge of basic microeconomic concepts.
Let’s take a look at some concepts.
Because all resources are scarce, all actions have an opportunity cost. An opportunity cost is the benefits you miss out on when you choose one thing over another.
Take a look at this example:
Bob is home alone on Tuesday night. He wants to watch a television program or play a computer game. He decides to play a computer game. The opportunity cost of playing the computer game is not watching television.
A market economy is one in which the prices of products and services are chosen in a free price system that is determined by supply and demand. Market economies are widely used, but do tend to increase the gap between the rich and poor. Realistically, no economy is a true market economy, because society and governments do have some control rather than supply and demand being the only force.
Here are the characteristics of a market economy:
The only revenue is through services or profits of private companies.
There is no planned economy.
Owners initiate production.
Participants freely choose which products to buy, which jobs they work, and how their money is spent/saved/invested.
This section tests your knowledge of advanced microeconomics concepts.
Here are some concepts you definitely need to know for the test.
Perfect competition happens when all competing business in the industry is at an equal level. For example, in Times Square, four hot dog vendors have set up stands on opposite corners. All vendors are selling the same thing and cannot change the price, because everyone already knows the deal is two hot dogs for $5. Other vendors are welcome to sell hot dogs there as well, and a vendor can quit selling there and move somewhere else.
Here are the necessary components to perfect competition:
- All buyers and sellers are knowledgeable and no one person has control over setting the price.
- Buyers and sellers are not restricted to when they enter or leave the market.
- The goal of buyers and sellers is to maximize profits.
- There are so many buyers and sellers that nobody can take control of the market.
- All goods are homogeneous (cannot be distinguished from similar competitive products like in the hot dog example).
- The government is not involved.
- There are no transportation costs.
An oligopoly is a market or industry that is dominated and controlled by a small number of large sellers. Typically, oligopolies result from forms of collusion between businesses and/or the government that weed out competition. This leads to higher prices for consumers, since each market is dominated by a small number of business who set prices.
In the United States, the car manufacturing industry, as well as cell phone service providers are oligopolies. General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler dominate the car sales market, and AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon dominate the cell phone service industry. The control these large companies have in their respective markets leaves little space for smaller competitors to gain strength; consumers have no choice but to pay the prices set by the large companies due to the lack of competition.
This section tests your knowledge of basic macroeconomics concepts.
Let’s take a look at some concepts that will more than likely appear on the test.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
The gross domestic product, or GDP, is a measure used to define the total value of all the products manufactured and services provided within a territory during a specified time period (typically a year). The GDP explains what a country is good at producing or what is being spent in that economy.
Let’s take a look at the components of GDP:
- Personal consumption/consumer spending (the purchase of durable and non-durable goods)
- Business investment (purchases made by companies except to replace goods)
- Government spending (the majority of which is typically military spending)
- Net exports (exports add to the GDP; imports subtract)
Unemployment is the situation of looking for employment, but not being currently employed. The unemployment rate is calculated as a percentage by dividing the number of unemployed individuals by all the individuals currently working.
Here are the causes of unemployment:
- Cyclical– Unemployment due to a lack of demand for work
- Structural– Unemployment due to advances in technology or outsourcing
- Frictional– Unemployment that is voluntary due to relocation, newly entering the workplace after graduating from a school or technical program, or trying to re-enter the workplace after leaving for a time
Let’s look at the consequences of unemployment on the individual:
- homelessness/housing stress
- family tension/breakdown
- shame and stigma
- social isolation
- crime rate increase
- loss of skill
- poor health
Unemployment also negatively impacts the country’s GDP.
And that’s some basic info about the Economics content category.
Short Content Essays
There are 3 short content essays. These questions account for 25% of the entire exam.
Argumentative and Source-Based Essay Information
- 30-minute time limit
- responds to one statement
The first type of essay that is required is an argumentative essay. You will be given a short opinion statement and will then write an essay detailing how you agree or disagree with the statement. You will have 30 minutes to complete the argumentative essay. Do not be surprised if the statement is controversial and sparks bold opinions and emotions.
For example, you might need to respond to a statement like this:
“Minimum-wage jobs are a ticket to nowhere. They are boring and repetitive and teach employees little or nothing of value. Minimum-wage employers take advantage of people, because they need a job. Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this point of view. Support your position with specific reasons and examples from your own experiences, observations, or reading” (ETS).
You want to aim for an essay with a final length of 400-500 words.
- 30-minute time limit
- summarizes two longer passages with opposing viewpoints
The second required essay is a source-based essay and will deal with a polarizing issue (most likely); however, you will be given two passages that present opposing views on the issue and, rather than explaining your own opinion, the goal is to write a non-biased explanation of the issue covered in the provided passages. It is very important to use BOTH passages as source materials when writing this essay.
Structuring Your Time
Within the allotted 30 minutes you must:
- read the statement/passages and consider the topic.
- write your main idea or thesis statement.
- outline your response (should include a topic sentence, as well as supporting details)
- write your essay (the bulk of your 30 minutes should be spent here)
- proof and edit
Each essay will be graded on a 1-6 scale, with 1 being poor and 6 being excellent. Two raters will grade each essay and use their judgement on the overall quality of your essay rather than performing a detailed analysis.
Your essays should:
- demonstrate strong academic writing skills.
- support any opinions with meaningful details and a clear thesis statement.
- demonstrate analytical abilities (in the source-based essay) by recognizing the distinct opinions of BOTH passages and summarizing the important information.
- use good transitions and grammar.
- avoid mistakes in style, spelling, and mechanics.
United States History Practice Test
The New Deal was most influenced by which political ideology?
Correct answer: 4. Progressivism advocates for social, political, and economic reform through state avenues. The New Deal was wide sweeping legislation that aimed to stabilize the U.S. economy.
The Sons of Liberty played a major role in protesting which of the following?
- The Townshend Acts
- The Quartering Act
- The Stamp Act
- The Tea Act
Correct answer: 3. The Stamp Act of 1765 enacted a tax on all newspapers along with legal and commercial documents. It was protested by the Sons of Liberty and repealed by the British government in 1766.
Which of the following best describes the primary goal of the first French explorers of North America?
- Establish a military outpost to combat Spanish dominance of North America
- Convert American Indians to Christianity
- Establish a vibrant fur trade
- Discover a western sea route to trade with Asia
Correct answer: 4. Jacques Cartier was the first Frenchman to explore North America. He was sent in 1534 under commission from the French king to find a western passage to the lucrative markets of Asia. A secondary goal of Cartier, and subsequent French explorers, was establishing land claims for France. Eventually the land claims proved to be profitable and the hope of finding a western passage was discarded. As more French explorers claimed North American land and established forts for France, French missionaries and adventurers migrated to the New World to convert Indians and capitalize on the emerging lucrative fur trade.
Looking at the image above, it can be reasoned that the Lewis and Clark Expedition was for the purpose of:
- laying claim to midwest territories.
- identifying the value of Spanish possessed lands.
- exploring the Mississippi River system.
- exploring the newly acquired Louisiana Territory.
Between 1849 and 1852, nearly 250,000 people migrated to California. Which was the cause of the large migration to California?
- The California Gold Rush
- Free land grants by the Mexican government
- The Transcontinental Railroad
- Oil and gas discovery
Manifest Destiny inspired Americans to migrate westward and settle the land between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean. Which of the following is a major long-term effect of this westward expansion by the United States?
- Increased tensions between the United States and Great Britain
- Increased tensions between the United States and France
- The growth of agriculture and mineral operations in the United States
- A peaceful relationship with American Indians
Correct answer: 3. This is correct. Much of the land settled by Americans in the 19th century was west of the Mississippi and the land was great for farming and had many natural resources, like gold, silver and oil, that Americans extracted.
No freeman shall be seized, imprisoned… or in any way destroyed; nor will we [the king] proceed against or prosecute him except by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. – Magna Carta
The principle from the excerpt above is best reflected in which Constitutional Amendment?
- Amendment 6
- Amendment 10
- Amendment 2
- Amendment 1
Correct answer: 1. The excerpt above is written regarding the imprisonment of citizens and how the judicial process should function. This amendment deals specifically with the rights of individuals in the judicial process.
Which of the following would best complete the diagram above?
- U.S. Labor Movement Leaders
- Civil Rights Movement Leaders
- African American World War II Heroes
- Influential African American Pastors
This is no time to right with one hand, when both are needed; that this is no time to fight only with your white hand, and allow your black hand to remain tied… A man drowning would not refuse to be saved even by a colored hand.” — Frederick Douglass, 1861
Based on the quote above, Frederick Douglass is most likely arguing for which of the following?
- Whites to fight for the rights of black Americans
- African-Americans to fight in the Confederate Army
- African-Americans to fight in the Revolutionary Army
- African-Americans to fight in the Union Army
Correct answer: 4. The above quote references withholding a black hand from a fight; this word-choice combined with the knowledge that Frederick Douglass was an activist for black rights and the date of the quote support the conclusion that Douglass is talking about letting black soldiers fight in the Union Army.
Which of the following was the primary reason for the growth of national markets in the U.S. during the last half of the 19th century?
- The urbanization of the workforce
- The growth of the oil industry
- The invention of the steamboat
- The expansion of the railroad system
Correct answer: 4. The expansion of the railroad system in the 19th century connected large portions of the country with a quick and efficient transportation option. Instead of horse and cart, goods could be shipped by train. This greatly reduced the cost and time of transportation, leading to a huge boom in trade across the country.
World History Practice Test
Which of the following is the greatest contributing factor to the fall of the Western Roman Empire?
- The feeding of Christians to the lions as entertainment for the Romans
- Lead water pipes that poisoned the ruling class
- Increased pressure of trying to feed the enormous population of Rome
- Pressure on the northern frontiers by Germanic tribes and the decline of central authority
Correct answer: 4. The fall of the Western Roman Empire is marked by a series of events beginning in the late 4th century. Many of these markers, such as the deaths of emperors, resulted in political instability. Also, Germanic tribes in the northern regions began to recapture many Roman lands and apply pressure on the northern borders of Rome, eventually sacking Rome in 410 and 455.
Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz against Austrian and Russian resistance in 1805 was important in many aspects. Which of the following, based on its geographic location, would be one of the notable consequences of the battle?
- It resulted in the submission of Austria to French authority
- The Russian Empire was subject to French authority
- It solidified France’s control of trade in the Mediterranean Sea
- It provided an outlet to the Baltic Sea, so France could trade with Northern European countries
Correct answer: 1. It was not near the Baltic Sea, so no access to the Baltic Sea would really be won. The location of the battle would make it much more plausible that the Austrian authority was affected and not the French authority. Also, the map indicates that Russia is not under French control, so it is unlikely Russia lost the battle and was placed under French control. It was not near the Mediterranean Sea, so no access to the Mediterranean Sea would really be won.
The period between 5th century and 13th century A.D. is known as The Dark Ages. Which of the following best describes why this period is known as The Dark Ages?
- Disease was prevalent and there was a high infant mortality rate
- The nobles were always looking for a good cause to fight
- The people spent most of their time in the work of the manor house
- The culture experienced a deterioration that was prevalent throughout Europe
Correct answer: 4. The Dark Ages refers to Medieval Europe from the 6th century to 13th century in central Europe. The term refers to the cultural deterioration of Europe between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Renaissance. Characteristics of the Dark Ages include a lack of literature creation, written history, architectural innovation, and general cultural achievements.
Which of the following factors best explains the power of the Church in the Middle Ages?
- There were no governments to maintain law and order
- Those who disapproved of Church doctrine were excommunicated
- The Church levied heavy fines against those who fought against it
- Paying homage to the Church was a first priority
Correct answer: 2. The power of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages (5th century to the 14th century) was derived from the power to excommunicate people from the Church. Excommunication meant the person was not a part of the Church, could not take communion, and was eternally damned to hell. The belief the Church could dictate a person’s eternal destiny was a strong power. Furthermore, being excommunicated would result in an ostracism, or expulsion, from society.
Which of the following geographic factors favored the development of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China?
- All four civilizations were located in tropical climates
- All four civilizations were located in higher grounds free of diseases
- All four civilizations were located near coastlines
- All four civilizations were located along the banks of major rivers
Correct answer: 4. Each of the four civilizations developed around a large river. The main reason for settling near a large river is to take advantage of a close freshwater source. As the civilizations developed, they began diverting water for irrigation purposes. The rivers that the civilizations began next to were Egypt- The Nile; Mesopotamia- The Tigris and Euphrates; China- The Yellow River and the Yangtze River; India- The Indus and Ganges.
What is the most important consequence of the European crusades that sought to reclaim the Holy Lands in the name of Christendom?
- Established trade with Asia
- Established the authority of the Roman Catholic Church
- Reinforced the military strength of Byzantium
- Reclaimed the city of Jerusalem and made it safe for Christians to pilgrimage there
Correct answer: 1. The Crusades led to an established trade with Europe and Asia. This trade led to the knowledge of Ancient Greece and Rome to be reintroduced to Europe through Arabic traders, igniting the Renaissance and Age of Exploration.
Which of the following is the primary result of European colonization of Africa?
- An increase in the political rights of minority groups
- The dissemination of European language and beliefs throughout Africa
- An increase in violent conflicts based upon ethnicity
- An influx of migration patterns of Europeans to Africa and Africans to Europe
Correct answer: 3. Europeans classified the Africans by ethnicity and language. This caused many conflicts between the groups long after the effects of European colonization diminished.
The caste system of India emphasized the importance of:
- segregating society into specific classes.
- providing a means of contributing to national security.
- bringing about social equality.
- creating a harmonious balance of economic cooperation.
Correct answer: 1. The caste system is a social system where individuals are divided into separate and distinct groups. The lowest social level in India was the “untouchables” and these individuals were relegated to undesirable jobs; “untouchables” were also poor and lived on the outskirts of society. The highest level was the “Brahmins,” who were the teachers, scholars, and priest. “Brahmins” enjoyed the highest level in the caste system and had very high standards of living.
Which of the following is the greatest contribution of Greece to western society?
- Democratic governance
- Military strategy
Correct answer: 1. The foundations of democracy began in city-states of Greece where male citizens were given an equal vote in legislative matters. The idea spread to the Roman Republic as citizens voted for their leaders. The political philosophy of Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato would later influence philosophers, including John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. While the other answer options are areas where Greece did influence western society, the idea of democratic governance is by the far the greatest as government creates and enforces laws.
The religions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity can all trace their founding to the Middle East. Of the following, which city holds the most historical importance for all three religions?
Correct answer: 3. Jerusalem is of special importance to all three religions. Judaism (Israelites) holds the city as important, because the Israel King David made Jerusalem the capital of Israel around 1000 B.C. and his son, King Solomon, built Solomon’s Temple, a lavish temple dedicated to God. Christian tradition holds Israel as important, because it is where Jesus Christ was crucified and many important events in the life of Jesus and the early church happened within Jerusalem. Islam traditions rank Jerusalem as the third most important city because of the Prophet Muhammad’s Night Journey and Jerusalem being the first Qibla, or focal point of Muslim prayer.
Government/Civics Practice Test
The information above is a reflection of:
- the 3/5 Compromise of the Constitutional Convention.
- human migration patterns resulting from the California Gold Rush of 1849.
- the Great Compromise of the Constitutional Convention.
- popular sovereignty in the legislation process.
Correct answer: 3. Each state has an equal number of senators, so popular sovereignty would not apply, as popular sovereignty is that the popular vote is sovereign. With each state having an equal number of senators, popular sovereignty is not demonstrated because, in the Senate, smaller states have an equal number of senators as larger states. The 3/5 Compromise refers to counting the slave population as 3/5 of a full citizen. The southern states wanted additional representation in the House of Representatives by counting slaves as part of the population. The northern states resisted; the result of the discussion was the 3/5 Compromise. Human migration patterns resulting from the Gold Rush are not supported by the table above.
Which of the following best describes the reasons for adding the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution?
- Correcting errors in the Constitution
- Establishing sovereign powers of the states
- Creating the power of judicial review for the judicial branch
- Establishing explicit limits on the power of the government
Which of the following is a responsibility of citizenship?
- Paying taxes
- Serving in the military
- Voting in elections
- Running for office
The first peaceful transition between two major political ideologies occurred in the United States during the:
- repeal of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
- election of George Washington.
- election of John Adams.
- Revolution of 1800.
Correct answer: 4. The Revolution of 1800 is the nickname given by Thomas Jefferson to the Presidential Election of 1800. The incumbent President, John Adams, was a Federalist and Thomas Jefferson was a member of the Anti-Federalist party. The two parties held significantly different political ideologies; Federalists generally wanted a strong central government and Anti-Federalists generally wanted a weak central government in favor of state’s rights.
How long is the term for a Supreme Court Justice?
- 10 years
- 6 years
- 2 years
Which of the following is true of the electoral process in the United States?
- Candidates for election must work at a voting station the day of election
- A citizen must be at least 21 years old to vote
- A member of the House of Representatives must be at least 35 at the time of election
- A President must be at least 35 years old at the time of election
How does the democratic government of the United States differ from that used by the early Roman Republic?
- The Roman Republic representatives were elected by all land-owning males, while the U.S. elects representatives based upon land-owning males and females
- The Roman Republic had no single leader, whereas the United States elects the President to lead the government
- The Roman Republic had one legislative assembly, while the United States has two legislative assemblies
- The Roman Republic only voted once every five years, whereas elections in the U.S. are held every one to two years
Correct answer: 3. This is the correct answer. The U.S. government has two legislative bodies – the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Roman Republic had only one legislative body.
Which of the following is the best example of checks and balances in the U.S. government?
- The House of Representatives negotiates a treaty with England, the Senate approves the treaty, and the President signs it into law
- The executive branch can nominate Supreme Court judges for impeachment and the legislative branch oversees the impeachment process
- The judicial branch reviews legislation and can strike down laws that violate the U.S. Constitution
- The judicial branch can overturn Presidential vetoes with a 2/3 vote
Correct answer: 3. This is the best example of checks and balances. This concept is called judicial review; judicial review is the ability of the Supreme Court to strike down laws created by the Congress.
Geography Practice Test
The climates of places at the same latitude can vary depending on whether there are high mountains nearby because:
- of the orographic effect of lowering the temperature with an increase in elevation
- mountains receive less insolation
- the mountains are a long distance from the ocean influences
- the passages of weather fronts tend to avoid mountains
Correct answer: 1. As one moves away from the Earth’s surface and with an increase in elevation, the air becomes less dense. The thin atmosphere allows the sun’s rays to pass through, warming the surface. Cold nighttime temperature is caused by heat loss through radiational cooling. The temperature decreases with an increase in elevation at one degree per 300 feet rise in elevation. For example, the capital of Peru on the altiplano which is located very near the equator has low average temperatures.
Which of the following best describes the primary purpose for the first European settlers settling around the San Francisco Bay area?
- The area was rich in oil deposits
- The bay was a natural harbor that protected ships inside the bay from turbulent weather and conditions outside the bay
- The bay was rich with gold deposits
- The bay was far from government oversight so individuals could evade taxes on various economic goods
Correct answer: 2. This is the correct answer. One of the most important features when settling a new land is the creation of a harbor so that goods can be shipped in and out of the region. Therefore, areas like New York, Charleston, and New Orleans are so significant. They are natural harbors. When the first settlers settled California, one of their highest priorities was establishing a harbor for trade; the San Francisco Bay area is a natural harbor.
The map above highlights large urban and suburban areas in the United States. What, if any, similarities do the different megalopolises share?
- All cities are established in right-to-work states
- All cities were founded after the states had been established
- No similarity exists among all the cities
- They are located adjacent to major waterways
According to the graph above, which region was the first to be gained in the unification of Italy?
Most early civilizations were founded by which of the following geographic features?
- On top of a mountain so inhabitants could identify a threat well in advance
- In caves to ensure protection from the elements
- A mountain to protect one or more sides of a city
- A river because of the need for a freshwater source and agricultural advantages of a nearby water source
Which of the following types of maps shows various weather features for a given geographic area?
Correct answer: 1. A meteorological map displays various meteorological features across a particular area at a particular point in time through various symbols. The purpose of a meteorological map is to provide a snapshot of weather activity in a particular area at a particular time.
Which of the following conclusions is best supported by the photograph above?
- Most of the world’s population lives in the Southern Hemisphere
- The western half of the United States is more heavily populated than the eastern half
- Most of the world’s population lives in the Northern Hemisphere
- The mainland of Australia is heavily populated
Correct answer: 3. The lights would represent where humans are living. Almost all the lights are shown in the northern half of the world, which would encompass the Northern Hemisphere.
The three main physical processes of the water or hydrologic cycle are:
- transpiration, perspiration, and sweating
- building dams, creating canals, and lowering the aquifers
- irrigation, desalination, and insolation
- evaporation, condensation, and precipitation
Correct answer: 4. The start of the water cycle begins with the sun’s radiation evaporating the ocean water. As the vapor rises, it condenses to form clouds. The wind systems drive the moisture-bearing clouds over the land. Winds are forced to rise over mountains as the “orographic effect” produces rain or snow. Liquid water either submerges into the soil to form groundwater or runoff into rivers, draining the land and returning it to the ocean where it begins to start over again.
In the United States, which of the following is the most common reason for individuals relocating to different geographical areas?
- Searching for better socioeconomic opportunities
- Searching for a more stable water source
- Escaping persecution from government
- Forced removal due to government land acquisitions
Correct answer: 1. Most every city in the United States has a stable source of water. Government persecution is extremely rare in the United States. Forced removal has not happened for over a hundred years and would be most applicable to Indian tribes around the 1800s
Which of the following types of maps shows a detailed and accurate graphic representation of cultural and natural features of the ground?
Correct answer: 2. A meteorological map displays various meteorological features across a particular area at a particular point in time through various symbols. The purpose of a meteorological map is to provide a snapshot of weather activity in a particular area at a particular time. Political maps show the boundaries and locations of countries, states, cities, towns, counties, municipalities, etc. The purpose of political maps is to show man-made political boundaries in a particular area. A thematic map is a type of map designed to show a particular theme connected with a specific geographic area. A thematic map can display physical, social, political, economic, cultural, sociological, agricultural, etc. characteristics of a city, state, region, nation, or continent.
Economics Practice Test
Which of the following statements is best supported by the data?
- Texas lost significantly more jobs in 2002-2003 than the U.S.
- Texas job economy was stronger than the broader U.S. economy from 2002 to 2003
- The greatest variance in employment between Texas and the U.S. occurred in 1998
- The greatest difference between overall U.S. employment change and Texas employment change happened in 2001
Correct answer: 3. Average employment numbers in Texas were slightly below the whole U.S. economy in 2002-2003. This would not support the conclusion that the Texas economy was stronger. The greatest difference between Texas and U.S. overall employment was in 1998 when the difference was 1.2%. The 2001 difference was only .9%. Average employment numbers in Texas were slightly below the whole U.S. economy in 2002-2003.
Which of the following will most likely result in a price decrease and sales decrease for smartphones?
- An increase in supply of smartphones
- A decrease in demand for smartphones
- An increase in demand for smartphones
- A decrease in supply of smartphones
Correct answer: 2. A decrease in demand for smartphones will likely decrease the price and sales of smartphones. If people do not want to buy smartphones, then prices will drop to entice consumers to purchase the smartphones and sales will likely decrease because people are not interested in smartphones.
A market where a few firms compete against each other is known as:
- perfect competition
- a monopoly
- an oligopoly
- monopolistic competition
Correct answer: 3. A monopoly is where a firm has no competition in supplying a good or resource. Public utilities are typically monopolies as cities only allow one supplier to provide the utility. Monopolistic competition refers to a market with imperfect competition where similar products are slightly differentiated (via features, branding, quality, etc.). In the short run, firms can act like a monopoly; in the long run, other firms enter the market. An example would be the tablet market. Apple introduced the iPad and faced little competition for six months while other companies raced to emulate the design. Perfect competition is where there is perfect competition among suppliers in a market; there are few perfect competitive markets. General characteristics of perfect competition include: many buyers and sellers, zero barriers to entry, perfect information among all buyers and sellers, and homogenous products.
A high school is having a bake sale to raise money for new lab equipment. As the students begin helping bake the goods, the teachers notice that the ninth-grade students can make either 8 pies in an hour or bake 10 dozen cookies, while the tenth-grade students can make 10 pies in an hour or bake 8 dozen cookies. The teachers instruct the tenth-grade students to only make pies and the ninth-grade students to only bake cookies. The tenth-grade students being able to make more pies than the ninth-grade students, but bake less cookies than the ninth-grade students in an hour is an example of which of the following?
- Supply and demand
- Comparative advantage
- Scarcity of resources
- Opportunity cost
Correct answer: 2. Comparative advantage refers to the idea that a specific person, people, or geographic area has had an advantage in the production process of a good. In this example, the ninth-grade class can bake more cookies in an hour than the tenth-grade class and the tenth-grade class can make more pies in an hour than the ninth-grade class. To maximize the number of pies and cookies baked, the ninth-graders should focus only on cookies and the tenth-graders should only bake pies.
Three students return to their class after lunch complaining about the cost of soda being fifty cents more at school than at the local gas station. The teacher overhears the conversation and informs the students that the extra fifty cents has been added by the school to cover various costs associated with offering soda to the students. Which of the following economic terms could the teacher associate with the higher cost of soda in the school?
- Retaliatory tariff
A seventh-grade teacher shares a graph with the class that shows how holiday decorations are substantially cheaper to purchase in January than in December. The teacher is most likely using the activity to demonstrate which of the following economic principles?
- Opportunity cost
- Supply and demand
- Costs and benefits
Correct answer: 3. The teacher is highlighting how the price of an item depends on the demand for the item. Holiday decorations are not in high demand in January, so stores reduce their prices to clear out inventories. If stores did not reduce their prices, then it is unlikely the items would be sold.
Mr. Scott breaks up a dispute among students. In discussing the situation with the students, Mr. Scott realizes they were arguing over the use of class resources. This situation could best be used to teach which of the following economic principles?
- Opportunity cost
- Free trade
Correct answer: 4. Scarcity refers to the limitation of resources in a given scenario. Scarcity is a fundamental economic problem that humans have needs and desires, but they live in a world of limited resources. On a daily basis, humans must choose how best to spend their time to accomplish their priorities; humans cannot pursue all their desires and needs due to the limitation of time and resources. Scarcity leads to the idea of opportunity cost. A person must decide to pursue opportunity A or opportunity B and the cost of pursuing opportunity A is that opportunity B cannot be pursued (and vice-versa).
In the 19th century, the New England states mainly produced manufactured textile products while the South produced agricultural products like tobacco and cotton. Which economic principle best explains this?
- Opportunity cost
- Supply and demand
- Comparative advantage
Correct answer: 3. Comparative advantage refers to the idea that a specific person, people, or geographic area had an advantage in the production process of a good. For example, the southern colonies were better suited at cotton and tobacco production than the northern colonies; the southern colonies had an economic advantage in the production of cotton and tobacco.
Which of the following will most likely increase labor productivity in a workforce?
- Division of labor
- An increase in the cost of capital
- An increase in government regulations
- A decrease of technological innovation
Correct answer: 1. The division of labor is dividing laborers into different divisions that focus on one task. An example would be the assembly line. Instead of one laborer performing all the functions, it is more efficient to have many workers doing many functions as it will increase productivity.
In the fall of 2014, the price of oil fell sharply from an average of over $100 per barrel to less than $50 per barrel. Based on the principles of supply and demand, which of the following is most likely true?
- The price decline was caused by a decrease in oil production
- The price decline was caused by an increased demand for oil
- The price decline caused an increase in capital investment in oil production
- The price decline was caused by an overproduction of oil